Response to BC Financial Incentives for COVID-19

March 25, 2020

Honourable Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development

Honourable Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care

Dear Ministers:

We want to express our profound appreciation for your efforts to address the current unprecedented challenges facing our community and the child care sector in particular. Today, we are writing to ensure that you have a full understanding of our growing concerns about government’s child care actions to date and to provide our best advice on next steps forward.

As you know, we have asked for a rationale for the Provincial Health Officer’s direction to close schools yet allow child care programs to remain open, as this differs significantly from the approach taken in most provinces. We understand that Dr. Henry advised all parents who can to care for their children at home. She also recognized that while some programs may close, child care services can and must be provided in a safe manner for those families whose parents work in critical roles. We agree that child care is essential to meet this need.

Yet, there is still no provincial plan in place to ensure that open programs are meeting the needs of essential workers.  The decision whether or not to stay open, work in or attend child care remains with individual child care providers, educators and families.

Building on the recent recognition that child care is indeed an essential service, we advised government to take effective measures, as other provinces have, to:

  • Close all programs to regular users, while maintaining educator wages, ensuring families are not required to pay fees for services they can’t access, and compensating programs appropriately for the loss of income
  • Designate essential workers
  • Assess the child care needs of essential workers, and
  • Open a limited number child care programs to meet those needs, with full funding to support additional health and safety measures, maintain educator wages and provide care at no charge to designated essential workers.

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Child Care and COVID-19

Dear friends and supporters:

We hope that you and your family are safe and well-supported during this critical time.

As the public health emergency unfolds, we are reminding ourselves to approach our advocacy with the ‘generosity of spirit’ that’s essential to achieving the child care system BC needs. We acknowledge that government is working hard to address the COVID-19 pandemic. And, the need for a systematic, province-wide approach to child care services and the health of children, families and early childhood educators remains our top priority. 

We have repeatedly asked for a clear and consistent public health rationale for keeping child care programs open while schools are closed, as almost all other provinces have closed both schools and regular child care programs. Yet, as of March 19, child care programs in BC are still being encouraged and ‘incentivized’ to remain open so that front line essential workers from other sectors can access child care. Parents ‘who can’ are advised to care for their children at home. Families are confused by mixed messages, educators are worried to be at work, and government has not yet clarified policies on parent fees, educator wages and the financial viability of child care programs.

We fully appreciate and support the need to ensure that designated essential workers can continue to provide the critical services our communities need. However, with licensed spaces for only 20% of children and almost no licensed care for shift workers, BC does not currently have a province-wide system in place to address these needs.  

We have always known that child care is essential!

The child care needs of essential workers and the health and safety of children, families and early childhood educators will NOT be achieved through a fragmented approach.   Expecting already under-supported child care programs, dedicated early childhood educators and stressed parents to make individual decisions about whether to stay open, work in or attend child care is not the way forward. Therefore, we support the provincial government to immediately:

  1. Implement an emergency child care plan to provide free age-appropriate child care services for all children whose parents are designated as essential workers.
  2. Close community-based programs that are not required to care for the children of designated essential workers.  
  3. Continue to pay all child care staff.
  4. Suspend all parent fees while programs are closed.
  5. Maintain all government funding to service providers during closures and provide additional funding to compensate for the loss of income from parent fees and/or parent subsidies.

BC’s plan should be informed by the province-wide plan Quebec has implemented to address these needs.  

It is a tragic irony indeed that it has taken this public health crisis for the essential nature of child care to be recognized.

Now it’s time for the province to respond to the urgent challenges facing child care services, and the children and families they serve, with a province-wide coordinated plan and the supports required to make it a reality.  

Sharon and the $10aDay Team

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COVID19 and BC Child Care

Workers, operators and advocates question B.C.'s decision not to close all childcare facilities

Maria Weisgarber , CTV News Vancouver @ctv_mariaw 

Published Wednesday, March 18, 2020

VANCOUVER -- Struggles to maintain staff ratios and locate and buy necessary cleaning supplies are just two of the concerns being raised by childcare workers, operators and advocates regarding the B.C. government’s decision not to close daycares during the covid-19 pandemic.

Emily Gawlick, of Early Childhood Educators of BC, told CTV News Vancouver the province could still come up with a system of childcare for essential workers.

“We believe that childcare programs should actually be closed,” Gawlick said. “Early childhood educators are really concerned. They’re scared, they’re frustrated and they’re confused.”

Sharon Gregson, of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC, said there’s been no policy rationale for why young children in childcare programs are being treated differently than children in elementary schools.

“It makes no sense to say that childcare has to stay open because people need to send their kids to daycare while they go to work, and yet close elementary school, where there are five-, six-, seven-, eight year-olds. Those children can’t be left at home alone while their parents go to work,” Gregson said.

She said she’s hearing some centres are having a hard time finding the cleaning products they need to follow the current increased sanitation advice, at a time when many stores have seen a rush on disinfectant supplies.

“The sector is in complete crisis, chaos, not knowing if they’re supposed to be open or closed,” Gregson said.

If centres close, she added, the government should take steps to cover any lost wages for workers and ensure parents don’t have to pay for care they’re not receiving during a shutdown.

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Victoria

Province invests in more than 400 more childcare spaces in Greater Victoria

 Mar. 6, 2020

‘These extra spaces will provide relief for many families,’ says Cordova Bay Elementary PAC president

The B.C. government is helping to bring more than 400 new childcare spaces to the Capital Regional District (CRD).

On Friday morning, Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development; Rob Fleming, Minister of Education and MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake; and Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South were at Cordova Bay Elementary to announce investment in 462 new childcare spaces for the region.

In an effort to make quality childcare more affordable and accessible, the province is investing in the new spaces along with seven new projects with local school districts.

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Child Care Fee Survey Results

B.C. child-care funding benefits centres, not families, in some cities

March 12, 2020 Nick Eagland, The Vancouver Sun

Government programs to make child care more affordable in B.C. are helping families but some for-profit centres may not be passing all of those benefits along, according to a new survey by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

For the left-leaning think tank’s sixth annual report on child-care fees, authors David Macdonald and Martha Friendly gathered data using a phone survey of licensed full-day child care centres and home or family child-care providers in 37 cities across Canada.

In B.C., they found that the median monthly cost for infant and toddler care in 2019 was $825 in Kelowna; $1,000 in Burnaby and Surrey; $1,112 in Vancouver; and $1,200 in Richmond. For preschool-aged children, care cost $810 in Kelowna; $850 in Burnaby and Surrey; $954 in Vancouver; and $955 in Richmond.

Macdonald and Friendly said B.C.’s fee-reduction initiative, launched in 2018 to cut fees at approved licensed facilities by up to $350-a-month per child, appears to have stopped increases between 2017 and 2019 but didn’t substantially reduce fees for children over three years old. Fees declined for children under three in Burnaby and Vancouver, where most centres are not-for-profit.

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Castlegar

Improving access to quality, affordable child care in Castlegar

by Contributor on Friday Mar 13 2020

The Province is making affordable, quality child care more accessible for families in Castlegar by investing in 30 new spaces.  

“Partnering with local government lets us create more new licensed child care spaces that will help strengthen the community for years to come,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “This is about making a long-term investment in the area and the young families that call Castlegar home.”

Through the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) is creating 30 new spaces: 10 spaces for children aged three to five, and 20 school-age spaces. The RDCK is partnering with the Kootenay Family Place Society for Children and Youth, which has been operating child care centres in the area for over 45 years. The district expects the new centre to open in September 2021.

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Close Child Care Programs

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Editorial

Editorial: New childcare spaces a step in the right direction

It has been a banner year for parents in the Cowichan Valley looking for childcare.

It was announced last week that three new childcare centres will be opening in the Cowichan Valley in September of this year.

They will be school based — at Palsson Elementary in Lake Cowichan, Alexander Elementary in Duncan and Mill Bay Elementary in Mill Bay — and have come about through provincial funding.

These centres will provide nearly 120 new childcare spaces.

This comes on top of a previous announcement in June 2019 of three other new centres that were slated for completion early this year, one at Cowichan Valley Open Learning Co-operative, one at Chemainus Elementary, and one at Khowhemun Elementary. Those are to provide 160 new childcare spaces. These were also courtesy of the province’s Childcare BC New Spaces Fund.

Whew! When was the last time the Cowichan Valley saw this kind of investment in childcare?

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BC Budget 2020 Media Release

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Child Care Top of Mind

Child care, housing top of mind for parents ahead of budget

Jesse Johnston · CBC News · Posted: Feb 12, 2020

The B.C. government will table the budget on Feb. 18, 2020

katie-barthel-childcare.jpg

Katie Barthel, a mother of two from Surrey, is an advocate for $10-a-day daycare in B.C. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

There's a short window during Katie Barthel's lunch break when she's able sneak away from work to discuss the upcoming budget.

Barthel — who lives in South Surrey with her husband and two daughters, aged four and eight, and sits on the board of directors for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. — says a $10 per day child-care system would be a major help to families like hers where both parents work full time.

"It would help us balance our lifestyle and be able to do more things as a family, save for our children's education or retirement," she said.

"It could also help us pay for the increasingly difficult housing market in B.C."

Barthel says her neighbourhood has seen explosive population growth since her children were born, so it's been a challenge for her friends and neighbours to find child-care spaces.

The B.C. government says it is working with schools to create more spaces, but Adrienne Montani with the advocacy group, First Call, says many low income families still can't afford child care.

"Those who are lucky enough to get a spot are often stretching way beyond their budget or they're not going back to work," she said.

"That's both single families and parents in couple families."

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