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Kelowna  

Child care 'a mess'

Major changes coming to B.C.'s child-care system remain unclear for parents and service providers.

The budget pledged $1 billion over the next three years to create an affordable child-care system in B.C.

To reach that goal, two measures were announced that will reduce costs for some families with kids in licensed facilities, and which will together help low-income earners the most.

According to the provincial budget, about 27,000 families with incomes under $45,000 will eventually pay little or nothing for licensed child care.

Amanda Worms runs two independent licensed child-care facilities, called Little Owl Academy.

"I have a background in business and I have invested my family’s life savings into this business and made the move to the Okanagan to do something of service for a community in desperate need. Since the budget, child-care providers need to know whether daycare fees will be capped. It's a mess."

Worms says replacing an income-geared subsidy program that hasn't been updated for a decade with a new benefit that improves eligibility and rates, should help in theory, but the practical application has caused consternation and confusion.

"If 24,000 spaces are going to be created, we need 1,500 more staff. We're in a staffing crisis already."

Worms also says details of the plan released Monday are worse than she feared.

"The deadline to opt in is March 27. If a child-care service does opt in, they will have to increase their fees. But (Monday's) document indicates that's not allowed except under extraordinary circumstances."

No definition of "extraordinary circumstances" was attached.

Worms says if her facility opts out, families using her service are not eligible for the rate reduction, which she feels could harm her business.

When Worms asked the government representative, during a recent town hall if the plan was to move towards public child care, she was told: "not at this time."

Worms says she has asked the government for clarity on three issues:

  1. Increase ECE wages and implement training/retention strategies immediately.
  2. Provide expanded subsidy for families.
  3. Provide capital funding incentive for both private and public sectors to build quality child-care spaces to expand access.

"This whole situation is infuriating. Private businesses own the majority of the licensed child-,care spaces in the province and we were not appropriately represented on this advisory committee," she said.



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