Daycare subsidy in Nunavut underused

Despite the relatively high number of families with young children in Nunavut, the territory's daycare subsidy program is significantly underutilized. Phillip Iqalukjuak, originally of Clyde River, says he didn't know it existed.

Lack of awareness and difficulties with application process creating barriers for families

Phillip Iqalukjuak is a stay at home dad with a 3-year-old daughter. He hasn't applied for the daycare subsidy because he did not know it existed. (Sima Sahar Zerehi)

Despite the relatively high number of families with young children in Nunavut, the territory's daycare subsidy program is significantly underused. 

Eighty-four per cent of all families in Nunavut have children with more than 4,500 of these kids under the age of six. However, only a few more than 100 families are accessing the territory's daycare subsidy program.

"We think that we can have at least double that amount of people accessing the daycare subsidy," says Brandon Grant, executive director of the Department of Family Services.

The subsidy is available to low income families who want to work or pursue education or training. Anyone over 18 with a child under 12 can apply.

There's no fixed income ceiling on who can apply; eligibility is determined by a needs test. 

"Currently [the subsidy] is underutilized and we're looking at why that may be," says Grant.  

For many families the money would provide a much needed boost.

Phillip Iqalukjuak is a stay at home dad with a three-year-old daughter. He moved to Iqaluit from Clyde River to find a job. He says he hasn't applied for the subsidy because he did not know it existed.

"It would really help us have more spending money and it would help me for training."

Process difficult for some

Masiva Pewatoalook is raising her four-year old daughter with the help of income support.  

She says she had applied for daycare subsidy in the past but found the process difficult to navigate.  

"It was hard and it took me long to apply for documents," she says, adding that if she had daycare to help with her daughter, she would be able to apply for more jobs and college courses.  

However, she has yet to receive any information about the current daycare subsidy program, which could help her reach her goal of becoming a nurse.  

Grant says the Department of Family Services needs to improve communications

"We need to do a better job always getting the information out to communities about our programs and what's available to them."

A review of the daycare subsidy program is currently underway to examine what is preventing people from accessing the subsidy and to put in place a plan to improve the awareness of the program.

With files from Kieran Oudshoorn

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