November 14th, 2019

Childcare subsidies axed by UCP, will put added strain on parents, says local advocate

By JEREMY APPEL on November 7, 2019.

Jennifer Usher, the Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association co-ordinator, believes cuts to childcare in the provincial budget are likely “just beginning.”

jappel@medicinehatnews.com@MHNJeremyAppel

Two childcare subsidy programs are getting eliminated at the end of the year, a development which a local advocate says will put “a lot more pressure” on the province’s already-overburdened daycare and early childhood education systems.

The Stay at Home Parent and Kin Care subsidy programs are getting axed on Jan. 1, however $25-a-day childcare and subsidies for low-income families are remaining intact.

Jennifer Usher, the Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association co-ordinator, says the cuts to childcare are likely “just beginning.”

“If families are already struggling to find childcare, then they’re going to be struggling even more,” she said.

The Kin Care subsidy provided a “small amount of funding” for families with a relative who doesn’t live at their residence caring for their child.

“That cut to that funding is going to put a lot of pressure on the spaces in childcare centres in general and home agencies, because now all of those children who were being cared for by family members might be looking now for full-time spaces,” says Usher.

“We already feel like we don’t have enough spaces for all the children who have families that are working or going to school in Alberta, and there’s going to be a lot more pressure with the Kin Care subsidy cut coming.”

The Stay at Home Parent program subsidized sending children to pre-school to the tune of up to $100 a month as a means of taking pressure off stay-at-home parents while preparing the children for kindergarten.

There’s a concern that due to the scarcity of public childcare spaces, parents who formerly used these programs will end up sending their young children to unlicensed childcare centres, “where there isn’t as much oversight for families,” Usher says.

Leanne Collings received $400 a month from the Kin Care program for her daughter Ivy, 5, to get taken care of at home by her grandmother.

She says she was approved for the coming year’s funding on Oct. 21, but was informed less than two weeks later – after she had completed and signed all the paperwork – that the program was getting eliminated by the year’s end.

“I don’t understand how they can cut a program and not honour the enforced contract until they expire,” said Collings.

She says she’s not going to be majorly impacted by the program’s end, although there are many young parents who aren’t as fortunate.

“They’re not going to have that income. There are going to be people who are going to have to look for jobs and it’s gong to put a lot of strain on the daycare and day home systems,” Collings said. “It’s really difficult to get a child in there already.”

Funding for Early Childhood Coalitions across the province is being eliminated in March, which Usher says will likely lead to reductions in various collaborative community programs geared toward young families.

However, she said dealing with a lack of provincial funding is something the coalitions have had to do in the past.

“There might be not as much collaboration between service agencies, less childhood development information sharing with families and less ability to offer free play opportunities at community events,” she said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’re just going to have to play that by ear.”

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