COVID UPDATE: Child Care in British Columbia

April 11, 2020

Dear friends and supporters:

Like you we were very relieved to hear BC’s Provincial Health Officer report on April 6 that, “Our percentage of new cases, as you can see, has been slowing, it’s been bending, and that’s really important.” It feels like good news that our collective efforts around physical distancing and hand-washing are seeing results. Together we are getting through these unusual and challenging times.

At the outset of the pandemic we shared our strong message to government that, as in other provinces, all child care programs should be closed to regular users with an immediate plan to ensure designated essential workers can access the child care spaces they require - spaces close to their home or work.

We called for:

  • Suspending parent fees for essential workers using child care and for families who are taking the Provincial Health Officer’s advice to stay home with their child if they can, and
  • Sustaining the wages of all early childhood educators
  • Compensating programs appropriately for the loss of income

Since then, families enrolled in child care programs were extremely relieved to hear from government that in most cases they will not have to pay fees if they are not using their child care space – either because their program closed or because of concerns about the virus - and, that their space will be available when they are able to return to their program. This is as it should be.

However, government is using large financial incentives to encourage programs to remain open but the decision as to whether or not to stay open, work in or attend child care is still left with individual child care providers, educators and parents – rather than being a province-wide coordinated plan. This remains disappointing.

Tier 1 emergency workers with young children now have access to a provincial referral system for assistance with finding a licensed child care space – and emergency workers with school-age children can access free services, as schools remain open, through their local school district. Unfortunately, child care services delivered by community based providers are still required to charge parent fees. We understand both these systems will soon be available to Tier 2 workers.

While BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development has chosen not to manage child care during this pandemic to the level demonstrated in other provinces, we are very glad to know that, as we suggested, the substantial new public funding now available to child care operators cannot be used to generate profits in this crisis. Government guidelines clearly state any surplus funds are to be applied to helping families (by reducing fees, extending hours) and supporting staff wages, along with other health and safety measures.

An interesting result of the pandemic in British Columbia has been the universal recognition of child care as an essential service supporting the economy. We always knew it was! The ability of our public schools to respond quickly and consistently demonstrates yet again the importance of ensuring child care benefits from the same system-wide approach in the future. So, as we all start to think about what recovery for B.C. and Canada will look like post-COVID-19, it is clear that a quality affordable child care system is exactly the type of infrastructure investment that governments will need to make. We’ll be right there along the way advocating for effective public policy decisions.

Thank you for your ongoing support – and like you we’ll continue washing our hands and maintaining physical distance!

From Sharon and the $10aDay Team


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