Childcare savings start December 1, but not all British Columbia parents will get the benefits

Parents whose children are in unlicensed day care or preschool and day care centers that opt ​​out of the fee reduction program will not realize any savings.

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Nicole Williams felt a wave of relief when she finally found a great daycare for her three-year-old son after years of searching.

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That optimism faded when the 37-year-old learned that the Greater Victoria daycare center will not participate in the BC NDP government’s childcare subsidy program which, effective December 1, will cut fees in half for thousands of fathers.

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“It’s really hard for me to listen to friends who make more than $100,000 a year and they’re going to get this money because their daycare participates” in the child care fee reduction program, said Williams, a teacher and her family’s sole breadwinner. of four. “And we’re earning about half of that.”

So while other parents are set to save hundreds of dollars a month, Williams’ childcare rates of $700 a month will remain unchanged.

Critics say this exposes the uneven and somewhat random nature of the government child care program that is leaving some parents behind.

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Some are paying $10 a day for day care through a pilot project, while others will pay around $20 a day. Parents whose children are in unlicensed day care or preschools and day care centers that opt ​​out of the fee reduction program will not get any savings, which they say is unfair.

Child care advocates say the new subsidies, which will apply to 96,000 children in the province, bring $10-a-day childcare closer to reality, a central element of the BC NDP’s 2017 election platform.

A Postmedia News analysis of day care centers participating in the government program shows an uneven distribution. As a result, proportionally more parents in Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria receive savings than parents in parts of the Okanagan and the Interior.

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In September, the NDP announced subsidies to reduce the average childcare fee to $21 per day from an average of $53 per day. Savings vary depending on the type of child care parents are enrolled in, but the most a parent can save is $550 per month if their child is under three years old and attends group day care.

The federal government is contributing $3.2 billion over five years, as part of a national pledge of $10 a day for child care by 2026.

A provincial pilot program to subsidize childcare spaces at $10 per day is also being expanded and will apply to 12,600 spaces by the end of the year.

According to the BC Ministry of Education, approximately 4,400 child care facilities participate in the fee reduction program. About 2,800 are so-called group day care centers, or about 96 percent of those eligible for the program. About 1,600 are small, out-of-home day care centers, or about 90 percent of those that are eligible.

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Unlicensed day care centers and preschools are not eligible to receive the funds.

Tara Bisgrove, the Victoria-based owner and operator of Precious Moments Daycare for 33 years, said she feels compelled to participate in a system that doesn’t work for private and family daycares.

Bisgrove, a licensed early childhood teacher who cares for seven children in the basement of her home, is concerned about the added administrative burden of submitting the monthly reports required to participate.

“Many private providers feel like they are being pushed into the system,” he said. If you don’t agree, you’ll lose business as parents will prevent a daycare from charging full fees of about $1,000 a month when others pay half.

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“It was a really challenging decision because I get a lot of paperwork that I have to do on a monthly basis and I am giving up a lot of my freedom,” the 61-year-old said.

When Bisgrove opts in, she will receive a $4 per hour supplement to her salary as part of the government’s pay increase for early childhood teachers.

Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson for the $10 a Day Child Care Campaign, said that while she knows some child care operators have opted out of lowering rates, the new savings are big enough that there’s a lot of pressure to participate.

“It’s almost cruel for providers not to participate because it’s literally hundreds of dollars that the family could be saving for a little bit of paperwork” for the child care provider, she said.

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As an incentive to participate, the government is increasing the administrative funds it provides to child care operators. The funds, which can be used for operating costs or staff salaries, will double for group child care centers and triple or quadruple for family child care homes.

Child care centers that participate in the fee reduction must agree to a three percent annual cap on price increases, to ensure centers do not increase fees to offset parent savings.

Karin Kirkpatrick, BC Liberal’s child care critic, said the rate cap puts pressure on child care operators facing rising costs for rent, utilities and wages. It could have the unintended consequence, she said, of child care centers cutting off services like meal programs.

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Kirkpatrick said a more equitable way to implement the program is to give low- and middle-income parents the largest savings.

“You could have someone who has a substantial income, get the $10 (per day of child care) just because they live in the right place,” he said. “And you may have a young mother who is not high income who is really struggling to pay and is still paying the full amount.”

But Katrina Chen, BC Minister of State for Child Care, has noted that low-to-middle-income parents earning a household income of less than $111,000 a year are eligible for a second subsidy. The affordable child care benefit, along with the December 1 savings, could reduce child care fees to near zero.

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Williams, who gets $550 a month off her child care rates thanks to the affordable child care benefit, said the government could have increased the subsidy paid to low- and middle-income families and raised the income threshold. to allow more British Columbians to receive the benefit.

The affordable child care benefit reduces Williams’ day care fees from $1,250 per month to $700, but if her day care center participated in the rate reduction, she would pay close to $260 per month, saving more than $5,000 per year.

“It would mean that we could think about Put money in our children’s savings accounts. And maybe we can afford a second car,” she said. “We are surviving on what I would say is the bare minimum to be comfortable.”

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