British Columbia

Child-care policy changes slowly creating improvements in B.C., advocate says

Even though it is slow going, one advocate says B.C. has made "giant" strides "towards fixing [its] child care chaos."

Advocate says there has been progress making child care more affordable in the province

NDP Finance Minister Carole James, pictured here, prioritized child care in the provincial budget. Changes made by the NDP government have helped improve the province's child care, advocate Sharon Gregson says. (Carole James/Twitter)

Even though it is slow going, one advocate says B.C. has made "giant" strides "towards fixing [its] child care chaos."

The state of the province's child care was in the news again Tuesday after the parents of Macallan Saini, a 16-month-old toddler who died at a daycare in Vancouver in January 2017, filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging negligence.

The tragedy emphasized the need for safe, affordable, licensed child care in the province, and prompted Saini's mother, Shelley Sheppard, to write to then Premier Christy Clark saying: "I am hoping that the daycare crisis across B.C. becomes a serious conversation and hopefully that conversation will lead to change."

Sharon Gregson, with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., says there have been positive changes.

"It's not going to be fixed overnight ... but we have seen significant investments in affordability for families," Gregson said. 

She said there have been two improvements when it comes to affordability: a fee-reduction initiative that was introduced in April; and the Affordable Child Care Benefit, which was made available Sept. 1 and provides a subsidy of up to $1,250 per month. 

I'm still optimistic with a little bit of finger-crossing- Child care operator Meagan Brame

Adding child-care spaces has been trickier, she said. 

"Government doesn't actually, by itself, provide child care," she said. "It needs somebody to be part of building the capital and [to] operate it."

Investments in increasing wages for child care workers need to be made, says advocate Sharon Gregson. (Mike Dotta/Shutterstock)

Improving wages for child care workers is another key area to work on, she said. 

"Part of the problem with childcare has been a massive recruitment and retention problem," Gregson said. "We have to make those kind of investments in the workforce."

One child care operator echoed Gregson's hope in the system, saying she's cautiously optimistic about the changes in child care.

Meagan Brame, the owner/operator of Saxe Point Day Care in Victoria and a councillor for the Township of Esquimalt, says while there have been some delays in getting the extra funding, things have been running relatively smoothly. 

"If you'd asked me six months ago, I would have been petrified of this time of year," Brame said.  "I'm actually slowly getting used to the new system of things with the new funding and so far, so good."

"I'm still optimistic with a little bit of finger-crossing."

With files from BC Today


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