The City of Penticton to decide on a Child Care Action Plan to increase accessibility and affordability

City working on childcare

With a long road ahead, the City of Penticton will be reviewing over a decade-long action plan focusing on addressing the need for child care in the community.

The “Penticton Child Care Action Plan” has 31 specific goals outlined with short, medium and long term time frames.

Council has heard from the community about the shortages in child care spaces in Penticton and now looks to put words into action. At present, staff reported there are projects in the works to increase the number of spaces in the community but no inventory has been undertaken nor a coordinated plan developed to respond to the shortages.

A plan from SPARC BC will be presented on Tuesday, which gives an outline of where the City can use multiple community partners to support their own efforts and investments. As well, communities with child care action plans may have a competitive advantage in receiving provincial capital dollars to build new child care centres.

Staff is recommending that Council endorses and direct staff to collaboratively work with community partners on implementing the Penticton Child Care Action Plan; along with submitting a final Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) grant report to UBCM and the Province of BC in order to meet the UBCM grant program obligations.

There were approximately 500 individuals who participated in the assessment and development of the action plan, which revealed that 83 per cent of families who participated stated they find it hard to find child care in Penticton and 81 per cent of child care centres in Penticton who participated have a waitlist of at least six months (if they have not closed their waitlist because it was too long).

Penticton has an estimated 1,064 child care spaces currently, and the reports suggests the city will require at least 722 net new spaces over the next ten years, to meet demand.

Further, 46 per cent reported waiting for one year or more to secure a space. At present, there are no programs offering extended or non-traditional hours of care.

The City of Penticton Child Care Action Plan is organized around four priorities, which are: Increasing accessibility, improving affordability, focusing on quality and strengthening partnerships.

Some of the suggested actions include: The City to develop a City of Penticton Child Care Policy, providing a consolidated statement of the community’s vision, goals, strategies and commitments.

Work with other public partners (e.g., Interior Health, School District 67, local First Nations, Okanagan College) to create an inventory of prospective opportunities for child care development on public land.

And explore the feasibility of establishing and maintaining a centralized, community child care waitlist to support families looking for child care.

The report outlines that the entire BC province has a child care crisis at present, with a shortage of spaces, and fees have been driven by the market, resulting in costs that are unaffordable for many families, especially for lower-income and more vulnerable populations. Low wages given to care takers have also made it difficult to recruit qualified educators to work in licensed child care programs

Another large issue identified is access for all populations, with some children and families facing additional hardships to care that meets their needs.

According to the report, there are about 460 Indigenous children aged 0 to 12 living in Penticton, making up about 13 per cent of the total child population, which is significantly higher than in other parts of BC.

While the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) runs a child care facility and Aboriginal Head Start preschool programs, with priority given to band members living on or off-reserve, the access to culturally safe and appropriate child care for Indigenous families in Penticton remains limited.

The low accessibility combined with high costs “Is a major barrier for many families who need child care.”

The report adds, “By working in collaboration with Indigenous governments, researchers, the School District, Okanagan College, the University of British Columbia, the provincial government, the federal government, child care providers, Interior Health, community agencies, and others, the City of Penticton can significantly improve accessibility, affordability, and quality of child care available to families.”

Council will be reviewing the report and Penticton Child Care Action Plan on Tuesday.

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