Daycare costs will rise as government cuts funding 

Parents will pay more as Liberals move away from universal before- and after-school daycare

Families who use daycare will face higher costs as the Liberal government moves ahead with budget streamlining and away from universal before- and after-school care previously promised by the NDP.

This week Lynn Stevens, minister of state for women’s services, said parents who have children in before and after daycare should expect to see their fees rise substantially, as the government restructures the system to cater to only the most needy.

Until now all parents who used after-school care paid $7 a day. Without the government subsidy parents in Whistler will pay at least $20 a day.

However, earlier this week the government announced transitional funding which will cover the increased costs until next spring. After that it’s anyone’s guess.

Already, said Suzie Soman, co-ordinator of Whistler’s Childcare Resource and Referral Office, stories are coming out of other parts of B.C. about parents who will have no choice but to leave their young children home alone after school because they have no-one to help and can’t quit their jobs.

"We are already hearing stories about this," she said.

The changes will also affect those who put their kids in all-day daycare.

"It will affect everyone indirectly," said Marion Hardy, director of the Whistler Children’s Centre.

"We have lost some of our operating budget so therefore this year we have had to put the fees up, which we didn’t last year, and it will affect those families on subsidy as well as the parents of special needs children."

As of the end of this month families will have to meet a new set of criteria in order to qualify for subsidies.

Families who currently receive a subsidy will now have to earn $285 less if they want to qualify for a full subsidy.

If the difference between a parent’s income and the income level to receive a subsidy is less than $50, the family will receive nothing.

"The government is saying it is too expensive to cut you a cheque for fifty bucks," said Hardy.

And there will be no subsidies for pre-school fees unless parents are at work, at school, or involved in an approved job-search.

"It is very scary across the province," said Hardy.

"A lot of communities are going to be hit extremely hard if they have high numbers of parents who have low incomes and rely on that daycare subsidy to keep their children in quality licensed care."

The Whistler Children’s Centre, which is non-profit, had hoped to keep fees the same this year.

But, said Hardy, fees had to go up 4 per cent to make up the cut in funding by the government to the toddler-program operating grant.

"It was a very hard decision for the board of directors," she said.

Daycare costs will no longer be subsidized for medical reasons, short-term family crisis, or during rehabilitation.

And unless both parents are working funding for special needs children in day care will be eliminated.

The government will be reviewing subsidy authorizations by May 17. If the authorizations do not meet the new criteria they will be cancelled by May 31.

This will mean that some parents will not be able to give one month’s notice before withdrawing their kids from care.

"I think it is very confusing and I’m sure there are a number of parents out there who still don’t know how it is going to affect them," said Hardy.

"A lot of us who are in the field are really worried about how it is going to impact the family.

"Is it going to mean an increase in the number of children going into unlicensed, unregulated, unsafe childcare?

"We move blindly on and just do the best we can for the children. We are here to support the families as much as we can and advocate and certainly families who are affected should be contacting the ministry, and should be writing letters and saying, ‘hey this isn’t great.’"

Anyone who is concerned about their situation can call the Childcare Resource and Referral Office at 1-604-815-4144, ext 413.

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