Comox child care centre among $10 a day prototypes

Government rolls out universal child care project, using 53 centres in pilot project

The provincial government has taken action towards a $10 per day daycare plan.

Fifty-three facilities across the province – including one in Comox – will be used in an 18-month pilot project to test the “universal child care” plan.

Tigger Too Early Learning Centre, a Comox Valley Children’s Day Care Society (CVCDCS) facility, is one of the 53 prototype centres that will deliver child care at a maximum cost to the families of $200 per child.

The balance of the monthly costs will be covered through the new program.

“We will report [expenses] monthly. The parents pay a maximum of $200, that’s for full-time – part-time pays a pro-rated scale – and the government reimburses us the difference,” explained CVCDCS senior manager Charlene Gray. “So we are not out any money; it’s just coming from a different place.”

The prototypes are being funded through an investment of $60 million under the Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Agreement with the Government of Canada. In all, parents of about 2,500 children will benefit from the prototype projects.

The Province selected the sites after a call for applications in June. While priority was given to sites that had infant and toddler spaces, the Province expanded eligibility to include other types of licensed child care.

“We are finding new ways to make it easier for families to get by every month and to save for the future,” said Premier John Horgan. “Through this kind of action, where we significantly reduce the cost of child care, we can make life more affordable for so many B.C. families.”

The program will accommodate typical cost increases projected for the coming 18 months.

“In order to opt in… we reported what our rates are, what our planned increases are, and had to show that those are historical kinds of things that we do yearly. Then they approve that,” said Gray. “So it‘s not that you cannot raise your rates, it’s just that you have to show if you are going to, this is the reason why.”

Tigger Too’s current rates are $750 per month for a three-to-five-year-old and $950 for children under three.

Project 10 years in the making

Gray has been an advocate for the $10 a day plan since its conception in 2008 and said Friday’s announcement was historic.

“Back in 2008, there were six of us sitting around a table, literally,” she said. “The government has taken the principals [put forth by the group] and the research, and done their own, and that has formed what is happening now. So it is historic for us, and we are more than just a little excited.”

Gray said the introduction of universal child care will have an immediate impact on all families.

“You can imagine, having to pay a fraction of what you would normally pay for daycare… it lifts many families out of poverty and gives many families choices. I had one family say ‘I can put gas in my car.’ Another family member said ‘I was pressured to go to work full-time, but I couldn’t afford the child care. Now I can.’ And also the opposite is true. I have one family member who said now that child care is lower, she can afford to work part-time. So it is giving families a real choice.”

Gray said Tigger Too currently has a wait list of approximately 200 for a program that only has 12 toddler spaces.

“That’s pretty normal, and that was before any announcements came.”

She anticipates an increase in that wait list number.

Beaufort ED calls it a “significant step”

Marc Lalonde, the executive director for Beaufort Children’s Centre in Courtenay was “understandably disappointed” Beaufort was not selected as a prototype centre, but said this is a great step forward for child care in B.C.

“This is a government that has made a commitment to child care, not only in words, but in direct deeds,” he said. “I’ve been in child care for 40 years. I’ve heard lots of promises, I have heard lots of talk. But this is the most significant step I have seen in my 40 years.”

He said the bigger picture is what matters most and is hopeful that the prototypes prove the project to be successful, thereby paving the way for a province-wide program.

“I wish nothing but the best for Tigger Too and know they will be successful in being a great prototype.”

Gray said she empathizes with the programs that were not selected to be part of the project – CVCDCS has a Courtenay facility that was bypassed – but she is hopeful the program will expand to all licensed daycares at the end of the test period.

“We have been given a huge opportunity here,” she said. “Our obligation and our responsibility is to make this work, so the government will have the incentive to expand it to the rest of the province.”

More than 300 child care operators applied to participate in the universal prototype initiative.

Prototype sites exist in urban and rural communities around the province and include a range of operational models, from group child care, to family child care, to private and non-profit organizations.

Parents who are not accessing these low-cost spaces may still be eligible for support through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides up to $1,250 per child a month for families with an annual income of $111,000 or less. Families using licensed child care may also see savings through the Child Care Fee Reduction, which has so far helped to reduce the cost of almost 52,000 child care spaces throughout the province.

–With files from the Government of B.C.

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