Make no mistake about it, after 16 years of neglect under B.C’s Liberal government, the child care landscape in B.C. has begun to claw it’s way back to a level that might give parents a cause for hope.
But there’s a long way to go.
It’s tough to find a daycare operating on Vancouver Island that doesn’t have a waiting list and that situation is far from unique. It’s estimated that in B.C. only one in five children currently have access to a licensed daycare spot.
It’s a shameful situation that has forced some parents to leave the workforce and has caused others to work graveyard shifts so that, bleary-eyed, they can care for their children during the day.
Others have reacted to the massive shortfall in regulated child care by opting for “license-not-required spaces” in which care for pre-school children is provided in private homes where the service is not regulated beyond restrictions on the number of wee ones taken into care. There are no qualifications required for the caregivers and virtually no regulations on the physical space, equipment or activities provided.
And, in both licensed and unlicensed care options, the fees paid by parents can be crippling, representing the second largest family expenditure in B.C., right behind housing.
That’s why when the NDP was elected after campaigning on a promise of $10-a-day daycare and additional supports to create more daycare spaces, many saw it as the answer to their prayers.
But campaign promises, it’s been said, are like babies; fun to make, but hard to deliver.
The government’s February budget contained no funding for the $10-a-day campaign pledge, although they were quick to point out that there are some prototype sites in place with those fees (ostensibly testing to see if people are happy with reduced fees).
Other programs, however, have started.
One of the daycares coming to Sooke will receive startup funding from the province, as part of a $237-million fund to create 22,000 new childcare spaces. The other has opted into a program that reduces fees for parents.
And provincial bursaries are now available to help childcare workers get their education.
It’s far from a solution to the problem but, in some communities at least it will mean that scores of families of pre-school children will finally get help.
It’s a level of care that’s long overdue.