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Report identifies ‘desperate need’ for more childcare spaces in Vernon

Vernon creating city’s first child care space action plan
WATCH: (Aired Jan. 9 ) The lack of quality childcare has left some Okanagan families with few options.

A consultant’s report on the state of childcare in Vernon has concluded that Vernon and Coldstream are in “desperate need” of more spaces and that “finding and retaining qualified childcare staff is an ongoing struggle” for local daycares.

The Child Care Space Action Plan, which is being presented to city council this week, found some parents reported not being able to work because of a lack of childcare and that the issue could have far-reaching impacts as the region struggles to keep qualified workers in the area.

READ MORE: Late government payments causing major financial burden for Okanagan daycares

The results suggest that the two childcare facilities the city is hoping to build are badly needed.

The study found there are 1,411 childcare spots in Vernon. Using the 2016 census results (the most recent results available) that means there are spaces for almost 29 per cent of kids under the age of 12 in the city.

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Meanwhile, the 256 spaces in Coldstream would accommodate 18 per cent of kids under 12 who live in the municipality.

READ MORE: Parents feel squeezed by child-care costs. Here’s where they want help

The report said the region is particularly short on spaces for babies under the age of 2. The 112 spots available will only accommodate 8 per cent of the babies in the area.

Vernon, B.C. seeks public input for childcare services
Vernon, B.C. seeks public input for childcare services

While the report did not come to any conclusions about how many families wanting childcare can’t find it, it did note that more than two hundred people who responded to a local public survey on the topic said they were currently on a waitlist for childcare.

One survey respondent said they had been on five waitlists for 18 months, while another said some childcare facilities won’t accept applications as their waitlists are already too long.

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The reports’ author concluded the survey comments showed “the high level of frustration and the impact on the ability of parents to obtain and keep good-paying jobs.”

Among other recommendations, the action plan suggests the creation of a “Child Care Action Team” to help the area create new childcare spaces and track progress on the issue.

The consultant’s recommendations also support the city’s current direction of applying for grants to open two new childcare facilities.

The city has applied for $7 million in grants to build two new childcare facilitates. Both are expected to be operated by the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club and located on land already owned by the city.

The city has proposed one centre be built near the Lakers Club House in the Okanagan Landing area, with another at the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club’s existing site near the city’s recreation centre downtown.