Questions, concerns voiced over new daycare subsidies

Aldergrove daycare providers waiting to hear whether their applications will be accepted

A majority of daycare providers are applying to opt in to the new provincial child-care fee reduction initiative to reduce child-care fees for parents, said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care.

“We’re encouraged by the operators throughout the province who have signed on to reduce fees for parents,” said Chen.

“We’re continuing to work directly with child-care providers to answer questions and get them signed up, so even more families will receive these savings.”

Families accessing care at child-care centres that have been approved for the fee-reduction initiative will be eligible for savings starting in April 2018. To date, 61 per cent of providers have returned contracts before the deadline of April 20, and 86 per cent of those providers are opting in. Operators who choose not to opt in for April remain eligible to do so at any time in the future.

However, some licenced daycare providers in Aldergrove are still on tenterhooks as they have not received confirmation from the ministry as to whether their applications will be accepted.

One of the sticking points is that increases to fees charged to families by providers must be assessed by the ministry as to whether the fees have been “historically” acceptable. Some daycare operators have expressed concerns that there are no clear rules about this and that interpretation of what is historically acceptable is up to the ministry’s discretion.

Presumably this is meant to ensure that families receive the full benefit of the daycare subsidy instead of it being swallowed whole by the daycares if the daycares simply increase their fees to match the new subsidies.

However, there is also a wide range of fees charged by the individual daycares in the province, with some charging as much as $1,800 per month for infant care. Most of the daycares in Aldergrove charge much less than that for infant care, as little as $925 per month.

On the other hand, if daycares are not permitted to increase fees to cover the cost of inflation — for wage increases, employee benefits, hydro and rents — they will not be able to stay in business.

Yet the demand is growing as daycares all have waiting lists.

This is the double-edged sword facing daycare operators, who welcome the financial relief the subsidies will bring to families, especially low-income households.

Aldergrove families who currently pay $925 per month for infant care will save more than a third of that every month, $350 per month, which will be a significant sum for these families (it should be noted that existing subsidies for low income households tied with the new $350 subsidy will mean that some households will pay nothing for daycare). The subsidy will be $100 per month for children aged three to Kindergarten (five).

While this potentially benefits families the subsidies do nothing to address the larger issues of opening new childcare spaces and retaining staff in what is traditionally a low-paid job. Early Childhood Education grads typically start out at $13-$14 per hour; not much more than minimum wage.

Paula Wagner has worked in the field for 32 years and operated Starlight daycare in Aldergrove for the past ten years. She told The Star that “burnout rates (for workers) are high, it’s exhausting work, and there are more special needs kids with behavioral issues than before. Yet we can’t increase wages without increasing fees.”

Wagner says she has not heard whether Starlight’s planned increase of $30 per month will be permitted by the ministry even though it’s a modest 4.5 per cent increase and is needed to pay increased costs of wages, benefits, hydro, rent and supplies. Starlight’s last increase was $15 per month a year and a half ago.

“It’s a very confusing contract and we can’t get direct answers to our questions; we’re still waiting for their decision,” said Wagner.

Natasha Fehr has operated Aldergrove’s Beans N Buttons daycare for the past 12 years, and she says their recent fee increase of $75 per month was the first increase in nine years.

“We’re all in this for the families, and I’m hoping this all works out for the families, especially the low-income families who really need the help. For some it’s going to mean the difference between whether they buy groceries or pay for child care,” said Fehr, who says she’s remaining optimistic for the program’s success.

“I wish all the questions and concerns could have been addressed first, but I think this new program is just the first step and all the concerns will be looked after.”

Lorraine Lively of the Kamloops Christian School Early Learning Centre says, “From my understanding, this is just step one of a three-year plan, and I believe there is an even longer-term plan. We know there are some issues with wages and education and staffing, but I believe the government has made it clear that there are more initiatives coming out. It looks to me like the government is very well aware of the issues in this area, but it can’t be done all in one step.”

Just Posted

DESIGN AN AD: Langley kids’ creativity pulls on heart strings

The insightfulness and attention to details captured in kids’ ads is ‘mind-blowing’ to adults.

PHOTOS: Grieving Langley widower, with teen boy, shares a story of angels

Walnut Grove’s Rick Rozdeba’s hospice story evoked tears and brought the crowd to its feet.

Fort Langley is open for business

Challenges abound, but local merchants are looking forward to summer.

Chilliwack RCMP seek shoplifting suspect caught on video

Man allegedly connected to automobile theft in Abbotsford, shoplifting in Langley

RCMP seeks dash cam footage in Cloverdale hit and run

RCMP believe same Acura TL involved in two accidents within minutes of each other

VIDEO: B.C. man recognized for spinning basketball on toothbrush

Abbotsford man holds world record for longest duration of time of 60.5 seconds

Former Social Credit MLA dies at 88

Lyall Hanson was mayor of Vernon in 1981 and moved to provincial politics from 1986-96

The simple beauty of a barn

Architect’s labour of love wins award from Architecture Institute of BC

B.C. set to introduce pot laws, but years of fine tuning likely: minister

Legislation regulating recreational marijuana is expected to be introduced Thursday

Canadian driver uses lawn chair as driver’s seat, gets caught

Ontario police detachment caught the male driver during a traffic stop

B.C. moves to restrict pill presses in opioid battle

Minister Mike Farnworth says federal law doesn’t go far enough

UPDATE: 83-year-old convicted murderer back in custody

RCMP have captured Ralph Whitfield Morris who escaped from Mission Institution

VIDEO: Vets, volunteers set up vaccination station for sick bunnies

Volunteers, vets try to stop spread of lethal virus

If you see a dog in a hot car, don’t break in: SPCA

People are being discouraged from smashing windows to free animals. The SPCA has tips on what else you can do.

Most Read