‘Half-finished’: Report highlights successes, challenges of B.C.’s $10-a-day child care

Click to play video: '$10 a day childcare changing lives, but unattainable for many says report'
$10 a day childcare changing lives, but unattainable for many says report
While $10 dollar a day childcare is transforming lives, especially those of single mothers, far too may marginalized and low-income families are being shut out, a new report says. Aaron McArthur reports – Dec 18, 2023

While the B.C. government’s $10-a-day child care program is linked to improved health and economic outcomes for low-income single mothers, advocates are concerned about inequitable access to limited spaces.

The Centre for Family Equity and University of British Columbia’s School of Social Work interviewed 30 lone mothers, 17 of whom had $10-a-day spaces and 13 of whom did not, but in most cases, accessed other fee-reduction affordability measures.

Their report published Monday found there aren’t enough spaces in B.C. to meet demand, there is no “transparent process for space allocation,” and a “failure to prioritize allocation to those most marginalized.”

It identified also other challenges, including “insurmountable” waitlist fees, inadequate capacity for children with special needs, and inconvenient locations or hours for those with gig or precarious work that takes place across a 24-hour timespan.

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B.C. to abolish child care waitlist fees

Yet it also uncovered “profound” impacts on the lives of lone mothers living below the poverty line who had access, according to co-author Vivica Ellis, executive director of the Centre for Family Equity.

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Interviewed mothers who had their children enrolled were able to reduce their reliance on precarious work, sustain their lower-wage jobs, and in some cases, leave income assistance for work.

They described greater access to self-care and socialization opportunities, as well as reduced fear of becoming ill or injured, the report adds.

“Across the board, their stress went down. They became happier, more well-adjusted parents. They praised the very high quality of care that their children were receiving in $10-a-day a centres around the province,” Ellis told Global News.

“Our data tells a story of kind of two tales of child care in B.C.”

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As of November, there were more than 13,200 $10-a-day spaces in B.C. The government had hoped to have 15,000 by the end of 2023, but now expects to achieve that spring of 2024.

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The Ministry of Education and Child Care said it’s working with providers to negotiate contracts at some 50 additional centres to fold another 2,400 spaces into the program. Future expansions are dependent on negotiations with the federal government, it added.

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Earlier this month, State of Child Care Minister Grace Lore announced a ban on controversial waitlist fees for licensed child-care facilities that are part of B.C.’s fee-reduction initiative, effective in April. Parents have previously reported fees of between $25 and $500 to secure a spot in daycares amid hot competition for limited spaces.

The partial waitlist fee elimination speaks to one call in the Monday report for waitlist fees to be eliminated at all B.C. daycares. Other recommendations include the creation of up to 50,000 new publicly-funded child care spaces, the inclusion of all interested daycares in the $10-a-day initiative, and the prioritization of new $10-a-day spaces in child care “deserts.”

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The report also recommends an equity-based approach to ensure the spaces are accessible to those who need them most, that they can accommodate the diverse needs of parents and children, and that a parent advisory council is established to help guide future reforms.

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Lore was not available for an interview Monday, but in an emailed statement, said in addition to the $10-a-Day ChildCareBC program, the province also reduces child care fees through a separate program at nearly 5,000 facilities across the province.

“We also offer extra support to low- and middle-income families earning up to $111,000 per year through the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which provides up to $1,250 per month, per child,” she wrote.

“This support can be combined with our other affordability programs, meaning that families who need it most may be paying $10-a-day or less for child care.”

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Click to play video: 'Expecting couple facing $600 rent hike for baby'
Expecting couple facing $600 rent hike for baby

Ellis described the $10-a-day ChildCareBC Centres as a “half-finished” program.

Co-author Lea Caragata, director of UBC’s School of Social Work, said the province’s intended expansions to the initiative need to be rolled more quickly, especially given the demonstrable benefits.

“What I think is really important to acknowledge is that the free daycare costs — and it’s $10 a day daycare — will come back multiply in terms of tax revenue once people actually get jobs and sustainable jobs,” Caragata explained.

“One of the things that really came up for so many of the women was just the possibility that they could do educational enhancement now that they had secure childcare and what that could mean for their futures in their careers and their long-term livelihood.”

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Affordable childcare still out of reach for many B.C. families says report

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