Low-income families will no longer be weighed down by waitlists that determine their ability to access affordable childcare.
According to an analysis of the 2018 city budget, an additional 1,500 families in Ottawa are estimated have access to subsidized daycare after the city made efforts to reduce the wait times for financial supports.
“We’re confident that with the changes there won’t be any waiting lists in Ottawa to access subsidies,” said Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who sits on the committee responsible for all community and social services budgeting.
City council approved an additional $17.9 million for the fee subsidy budget this year, a 28% increase from 2017.
Licensed childcare centres had to raise their daycare fees to offset the extra costs from Ontario’s rising minimum wage. Jason Sabourin, Ottawa’s children’s services manager, said the fee subsidies were needed to help families cope with these additional costs.
Families are expected to receive subsidies as high as $12 thousand.
A better educational experience for low-income children
The way subsidies are allocated have also changed, said Fleury. Previously funding was allocated through a specific daycare, meaning a parent did not have the liberty of switching childcare centres because they would lose their financial aid.
Funding is now assigned to the family directly and follows them between neighbourhoods.
Early childcare educator Helene Legault said this change gives families the option of removing their children from poor-quality daycares. They are no longer dependent on locations with short subsidy waiting lists because the financial support sticks to their record.
According to Legault, children in the high-income neighbourhoods have greater learning opportunities because their daycares can afford more field trips and creative activities.
“I’m hoping that all children will have better experiences across the board,” she said.
More money more problems
The rise in fee subsidies belong to a series of financial increases for the early childcare sector that the provincial government announced in 2017.
In an Ottawa town hall held earlier this month, Premier Kathleen Wynne said that the Ontario government is working with cities across the province to create 100,000 new childcare spaces.
After parents receive their subsidy they are put on a second waiting list until a spot in one of the institutions opens up. The additional spaces will help reduce that second waiting list.
An additional $2.9 million was allocated to Ottawa for the project, reducing the waitlist by an estimated 170 families.
Early childcare educators are skeptical about the increases, saying they will lack the resources to accommodate growing classrooms.
“Usually our classes get bigger but we see no pay hike for the extra workload,” said Legault.
Legault noted that more children with special needs will given placements but there are no extra funds to help support them. More resources are needed for trained experts like psychologists, she said.
Pat Dickson, an early childhood educator, said that on some days a kid with special needs will have a meltdown so intense that the rest of the class needs to be evacuated until the child calms down.
“The violence in our school is beyond our control and there is very little learning going on in that classroom,” she said. “We are making sure that that little child who needs assistance is getting it at the expense of every other child in that classroom. They dumped them in but with no support.”
The provincial government transferred $6.7 million dollars worth of its early childcare budget and decision making powers to Ottawa, said Saboruin.
The municipal government is now in charge of services like playgroups, workshops, and referral services that benefit children from infancy to age six, meaning parents and daycare workers like Legault could get a greater say into the early care of their children.