PART 1 OF 4 POLICY BRIEFING NOTES • FALL 2018Read more
September 21, 2018
Honourable Katrina Chen
Minister of State for Child Care
PO Box 9057 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC V8V 9E2
Dear Minister of State Chen:
Recently we have been contacted by parents and child care providers expressing concern about:
- Child care fees that, from their perspective, are increasing substantially – despite their program’s participation in the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative (FRI)
- Licensed programs that may be closing, for various publicly-stated reasons.
In the past, we alerted you to individual cases of unusual fee increases in Nanaimo that came to our attention. We are now hearing of large fee increases in other communities, typically in for-profit operations, which have resulted in no, or minimal, fee reductions for families.
Ministry staff have advised they are monitoring the situation closely, and find these are isolated situations. We hope that remains true for both unusual fee increases and program closures.
Certainly, we’ve been hearing lots of concerns about fee increases and program closures for many years. However, unlike the previous government, your government is making significant investments in lowering parent fees and increasing licensed spaces, so it’s essential to ensure that your child care priorities are not undermined. In addition to the policies and accountability mechanisms already in place, we recommend that government take proactive steps to reduce the possibility of these situations arising, follow-up on individual concerns, and take action where appropriate and necessary.Read more
Listen to $10aDay researcher Lynell Anderson CGA CPA, along with Shannon Newman-Bennett being interviewed by Lynda Steele on CKNW radio. They're discussing recent changes to child care in BC...click here
BC Government takes one more step towards affordable child care in BC!
Parent fees eliminated for most families earning less than $45,000 annually with children under age 3 in licensed child care – as recommended in the $10aDay Child Care Plan.
Building on the BC government’s recent Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative - which is saving families of more than 50,000 young children up to $350 monthly for licensed child care - effective September 1, 2018 government’s new Affordable Child Care Benefit provides even more affordability relief for more families. Through a streamlined, on-line application process, families with annual incomes of $45,000 or less will receive the full benefit, up to the cost of care, and those who make up to $111,000 will receive a
portion, scaled according to income.
“Joyful and excited are some of the words I’d use to describe the responses we’ve heard from families already” reports Sharon Gregson, Spokesperson for the $10aDay Plan. “They’ve used government’s online calculator, and are now anticipating more fee relief. So it’s important to ensure that families are aware of this benefit.”
However, while increasing income-tested subsides can provide affordability relief in the short term, it is not the way to build or fund a child care system over time. It’s not the way we fund schools, libraries, hospitals or other BC early learning programs like Strong Start. It isn’t even the way we fund programs at community centres, where user fees are often reduced or waived for people with economic or other barriers while everyone else pays the same. Public funds cover the difference.Read more
For the first time in a generation Early Childhood Educators in BC will receive a publicly-funded wage increase.
After nearly two decades of government ignoring the growing recruitment and retention crisis in the Child Care sector, new funding for wages and education are very welcome. Now that government is supporting the child care workforce, making child care more affordable for families and creating new licensed spaces, the foundations for achieving quality, universal child care are in place.
Wage enhancements of $1/hr in 2018 ($2,080 annually for a 40 hour week), with another $1/hr in 2020, are important steps towards addressing the recruitment and retention crisis across BC. Yet, today’s wages are so low – averaging about $17/hour province-wide – that we’ll be urging all MLA’s to support an additional wage lift before 2020.
My Evolution of an ECCE Perspective
I have been doing a lot of reflection over my forty-seven years in the ECE profession. With the advent of the current Provincial Child Care plan and the ongoing proposal for the Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning ($10 a Day Child Care Plan), there has been both a public and professional shift in perspectives on child care. There are many issues within this topic; however, the one that is playing on my mind of late is the aspect of the jurisdictional “home” for Early Care and Learning in B. C.
When I started in this profession in 1971, those in the field were called “preschool teachers” and even as students in training, we soon learned that “preschool” was the essential adjective of this title. There was an emphatic and defiant stance in not being categorized with simply the term “teacher” as that may associate us with the confines of schools and structured educational agendas. There was also the belief that ECE practice had a deeper understanding and appreciation for child development –in terms of both its compounding importance from birth and consideration of the whole child: physical, emotional, social and intellectual. In no uncertain terms would we, “preschool teachers” want to be grouped with school teachers or be considered part of the straight jacket of the education system. Though lesser in status, both practical and social, we had pride in our unique understanding and facilitation of child development and the translation of that into programs and practice.
Good news for families across the province! Today the BC government announced the next step on the province’s path to universal child care – funding for the creation of 22,000 new licensed child care spaces over the next three years.
Public partners, local governments, school districts, etc. can access $1 million for each project, not-for-profit organizations can access $500,000, and for-profit companies can access $250,000.
More licensed spaces can’t come soon enough for the thousands of families on waiting lists. Mums like Theo, who is currently looking for toddler care for her son. She says “I need to work knowing my son is safe and well-cared for – there should be a licensed child care space for every child who needs one.”
With long-overdue provincial government investment, child care in BC is finally on the way to becoming more available and affordable for families across the province. However, the third leg of the child care stool – quality – must be addressed promptly, starting with an immediate lift to ECE wages.
“More licensed spaces are desperately needed by families with young children - but equally desperate is the need to have enough educators to work in those new spaces. We’re anxiously waiting for provincial wage enhancement funding, “says spokesperson Sharon Gregson.
Child Care is finally seeing improvements in BC – good public policy that reduces parent fees, invests in Aboriginal Head Start expansion, improved maintenance grants, investments in child care for children with additional support needs, and funds to move unlicensed spaces into the licensed sector.
“However, we are concerned that public funds are still available to build facilities that will be owned by individuals and corporations, rather than publicly-owned like schools and libraries,” commented $10aDay researcher, Lynell Anderson CPA CGA.
No other province or territory in Canada provides such significant, open-ended public funding in the form of capital dollars for the expansion of private child care assets.
The BC government has committed to creating 24,000 licensed child care spaces over the next three years, a target that is consistent with the $10aDay Child Care Plan recommendations.
As government begins to create these new spaces, we call on them to move away from the old, ineffective Major Capital Grant Program. This reactive program relied on individual child care providers to assess local child care needs, write a detailed application, raise their own funding contribution and manage the planning and construction process. And, although taxpayers contributed substantial funds to this Program, too often individuals and corporations (even numbered companies) owned the resulting spaces.
Instead, government needs to move towards an evidence-based approach that ensures publicly-funded spaces are planned in and by communities and are publicly-owned – the same way schools and libraries are planned and funded.
Our recent letter to the BC government highlights this approach, which:
- Puts responsibility for assessing local child care needs where it belongs – in communities.
- Puts responsibility for overall planning and adequate capital funding where it belongs – with the provincial government.
- Puts ownership of publicly-funded assets where it belongs – with the public.
- Puts responsibility for exploring and implementing a range of options for creating more licensed spaces where it belongs – with the provincial government and public partners.
Here's a copy of a recent letter sent to Katrina Chen, the Minister of State for Child Care (click here for a PDF version).Read more