Manitoba

New child care app launching in Manitoba will replace online registry

Manitoba parents and caregivers looking for child care will soon have a more streamlined system to help them find a space. Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced a newly designed mobile app will be available on Aug. 30 to replace a very outdated system. 

Families minister announced app for those searching for child-care, funding for centres to implement it

Rochelle Squires announces a new app to search for child-care spaces that will launch on Aug. 30, 2021. (Global/Pool Camera)

Manitoba parents and caregivers looking for child care will soon have a more streamlined system to help them find a space. 

Families Minister Rochelle Squires said a newly-designed mobile app will be available on Aug. 30 to replace a very outdated system. 

"Many parents will be familiar with the child-care registry system known as the Online Care Child Care Registry, which has been in use for many years and was outdated and difficult to use," Squires said at a news conference Thursday outside the Morrow Early Learning and Child Development Centre in South St. Vital. 

"It was very cumbersome, it wasn't interactive."

Squires says she's heard from parents about the challenges of the system through the child care parent advisory committee, through parents and through a recent survey that was conducted on early learning and child care modernization — which helped the government decide to act on updating the flawed system. 

The minister says the new app will include an easier-to-navigate system that lets parents access up-to-date information about licensed child-care vacancies, and additional features, including an interactive map that makes it easier to browse facilities and find providers near their desired location.

Squires says children currently enrolled or on wait lists will not be affected by the updates. 

"I want to assure parents that children already enrolled in a child-care space through the old system will not lose their spots during the transition to the new system."

Along with the new app, Squires announced up to $958,000 for a one-time benefit to cover software or spreadsheet subscription services for facilities. She says up to $1,200 for each centre and up to $400 for each home daycare or nursery school will be available. She also says this funding can apply to existing software or additional training. 

Child-care projects given more funding 

Squires also provided an update about the Child Care Sustainability Trust, announced earlier this year.

She says the trust makes one-time grants available to child-care facilities to support innovative projects that will enhance access and exclusivity. She confirmed funding to 37 centres and seven family child-care homes that met the eligibility criteria and submitted strong proposals.

During the first intake, an additional 38 centres and 13 homes will have their applications considered as part of future intakes.

The minister says funds will become available again in early 2022. All facilities will be notified about the status of their application within the next two weeks and will not have to reapply.

Moving forward, Squires notes the trust will have an annual intake with funding levels determined by the annual interest earned on initial investment.

Child-care centre glad for improvements

Minister of Families Rochelle Squires speaks with Bonnie Ash, executive director of the Morrow Early Learning and Child Development Center in South St. Vital. (Global/Pool Camera)

Bonnie Ash, Executive Director of the Morrow Early Learning and Child Development Centre, says the new app and funding is much-needed.

"We all welcome this new, improved tool designed to give easier access to child-care services," Ash said

"Parents have long identified there was a need, and the government has been responding."

Ash says "this centre would not be here today, except for the fact that this government supported us. We only recently opened, and we're looking forward to providing additional child care for families in our community."

Need new spaces, not new tool: Lamont

Liberal party Leader and MLA for St. Boniface Dugald Lamont says the PCs shouldn't be worrying about improving an app that only highlights the lack of child care in the province.

"The PCs should be announcing that they will be signing onto the $10 per day National Early Learning and Child Care Program. Parents need spaces they can afford, not a new tool that lets them know there are 18,000+ people waiting ahead of them."

Lamont says the PCs haven't just dragged their feet, they have forced obstructions and delays.

"On health, justice, infrastructure, and education, they fight federal agreements and won't spend the money because Pallister is more interested in propping up the Conservative Party than the needs of all Manitobans."

The Opposition NDP accused the Tories of attempting to make the child-care wait list disappear by adding in spaces at private, for-profit child care centres. 

"It's not a true indication of what is affordable and accessible for families and does nothing to address the massive wait list of families in need of child care that works for them," child care critic Danielle Adams said. 

"By moving from a demand-based registry to a supply-based registry, the PCs are attempting to make their 18,000-family wait list disappear without actually solving the problem," Adams said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Renée Lilley is a reporter for CBC Manitoba. She is a recent University of Winnipeg grad with a BA in rhetoric and communications. She has reported on radio and online news in her hometown of Portage la Prairie. She is also a proud Métis mama of four girls.

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