Let your MLA know they need to properly fund child care in Alberta!

With the upcoming spring provincial budget, it is more important now that the Alberta Government hear from Albertans. Over the past couple of months the UCP has cut a number of grants and subsidies for both parents and child care centers – often with little or no consultation. Funding cuts are hurting our already underfunded child care system in Alberta. These funding cuts affect Alberta’s children, families, communities, and workers.

Make sure you let your MLA know how important it is to properly fund child care!

Click HERE to email your MLA.

 

Federal Child Care Announcement for Alberta

In July 2020, the Federal Government announced it will give Alberta $45 million in federal funding for child care as part of a $400 million investment in child care across the country. The previous provincial NDP government had used federal funding to pilot a full wrap-around child care system that was open to a diversity of Alberta families who were using centre-based not-for-profit child care and supporting child care workers, the Early Learning and Child Care Centres (ELCC) often referred to as $25/day. The UCP government has decided to take this funding and move it towards building up the parental subsidy program.

The majority of federal funding in Alberta, $29 million, will go towards the parental subsidy. $9.7 million is dedicated towards additional supports for child care providers providing care to children with complex needs and $4.7 million will be spent on curriculum and professional development for staff.

Under the previous $25/day program, the most a family would spend accessing child care was $25/day regardless of income, and low-income families most in need actually had free daycare as they also received the previous parental subsidy. Under the new parental subsidy, those low-income families, estimated at 23,000 families, are expected to see a drastic increase in cost. The actual amount of parental subsidy varies based on income and the age of the child but has no relationship with the actual daycare costs charged by the child care provider. Another change with the new UCP parental subsidy is that no family making over $75,000 annually will receive any parental subsidy. However, families receiving the previous subsidy from the NDP government will continue to receive it as they are grandfathered in – this is not available to any new families.

The UCP child care plan fails to address how new child care spots will be created under their parental subsidy to make up for the lack of available child care provincially. The UCP also has no way to ensure that government funding is supporting quality childcare, especially since they removed the accreditation program earlier this year and have yet to replace it with anything beyond the basic licensing requirements.

 

The UCP Continue to Cut Funding for Child Care in Alberta

After having cut the first phase of the $25/day child care pilot along with the Kin Child Care and Stay-at-Home parent subsidies, they are continuing to cut more funding by axing the norther living allowance.

For Wood Buffalo’s child care workers, the northern living allowance was worth $12,480 annually per worker, which for some is nearly 1/3 of their wage. Although this cut may seem small on government budgets it is drastic for the workers and their families. For some, this means they will no longer be able to afford to continue working in the child care field, which may mean a loss of child care spots that are desperately needed in communities. It may also mean more staff turnover and a drop in the actual quality of child care provided and an increase in the fees that parents pay.

It is clear that the UCP’s aim is to dismantle any attempts at having a full child care system in Alberta and to go further with cuts to many smaller programs that helped ensure that at least some child care programs could exist and thrive.

 

In early March, Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz announced the UCP is cutting Alberta's child care accreditation program.

The accreditation program is one of the only ways families and parents in Alberta have to evaluate the quality of care provided at a center or dayhome. The accreditation standards in Alberta went beyond the basic licensing requirements to focus on ensuring centers provided high quality child care. Accreditation standards included learning and development outcomes for children, ensuring families using child care services are supported, maintaining and promoting child care staff professional development and ongoing learning, and providing valuable services to communities.

A child care center’s accreditation status was traditionally one of the key indicators of quality the Alberta Government told parents and families to look for when assessing different child care centers and dayhomes.

Without this accreditation standard there will be no external third-party evaluating child care in Alberta in terms of the quality of care that is delivered.

Accreditation status was also one of the ways the Alberta Government ensured government money was going towards supporting quality child care in Alberta through wage top-ups available to certain staff at accredited centers. Wage top-ups will now be available to all licensed child care centers and dayhomes regardless of the quality of child care that is provided. While this move is valuable in helping support child care workers, government funding should be targeted towards quality child care that is accessible to all Albertan families.

This move is a gigantic step backwards in terms of providing more quality child care for children in Alberta.

 

Early Learning and Child Care Centre Pilot Phase I Ending in June 2020

The UCP recently announced the first phase of the $25/day daycare pilot program, which included 22 centers across Alberta, will be ending in June 2020. The UCP will be replacing this program for the 22 centers with child care subsidies. No further details on how these subsidies will work or if other aspects of the pilot program will continue under the new subsidies.

The 100 centers that were added to the pilot during phase two will continue to offer $25/day childcare, as this is currently funded by the federal government.

The first phase of the pilot program is ending despite an overwhelming positive review done by R.A. Malatest and Associates. This review found that the program had an overall positive impact on family and child well-being, it improved accessibility and affordability for quality childcare for Albertans, and the quality of care in these centers was also improved. As of March 2018, the first phase of the pilot program supported an estimated 328 Albertans to enter or re-enter the workforce.  Public Interest Alberta also found in a survey they commissioned that this pilot program was 15% more likely to serve infants and 12% more likely to serve children with disabilities. These programs were also more likely to have highly-qualified staff and offer staff professional development opportunities.

 

The UCP moves ahead on further cuts to child care

Shortly after announcing the cuts of the Kin Child Care Subsidy and the Stay-at-Home parent subsidy in November, the UCP has announced another round of cuts to child care services for Albertans in early December 2019.

Come April 1, 2020 the UCP is cutting the benefit contribution grant and the staff attraction incentive for daycare centers.

The benefit contribution grant is used to offset costs associated with mandatory employer contributions associated with other provincial government programs such as the Staff Support Funding. The Staff Attraction Incentive went towards child care workers to encourage them to enter and stay in the child care field and help with staff turnover. The UCP claims that these cuts will not affect children and families that use licensed child care – but the reality is that these system-wide cuts could have a devastating impact on staff in the child care sector resulting in lower wages and higher staff turnover or higher parental fees.

Overall these cuts are another economic hit to an already underfunded patchwork system of child care in Alberta. These cuts also disproportionately affect women, who make up the majority of child care workers and often do not even earn a living wage.

 

In early November, the UCP Government announced they were ending two child care subsidies in January 2020.

The first subsidy was the Kin Child Care Subsidy which was earmarked for families who had another family member caring for their children which covered $400 per month for children not yet attending school and $200 per month for children grades 1-6. The second subsidy was the Stay-at-Home parent subsidy that helped parents who attend school or work part-time cover the costs of preschool for $1,200 a year.

It is significant that both these subsidies were cut without consultation with the Albertans who use them and they were cut despite families recently receiving approval for the subsidies for the next year. Because of these cuts many families will be scrambling to find new child care arrangements or will have to cover the lost subsidy starting January. This scramble may be especially difficult for families with children in preschools that traditionally run from September to June. Some families may have to adapt by stopping their schooling or ending their part-time work. As well, the child care workers who provided care for these children may also be out of work as some families who no longer be able to fund these options.

The UCP is also cutting Alberta’s Parent Link Centers effective March 31, 2020. There are currently 59 centers in Alberta that provide parents and caregivers free resources and support. The centers focus on supporting families in early childhood development, parenting skills, mental health resources, and making sure caregivers are aware of the supports in their communities. These centers have serviced more than 107,000 Albertans each year.  

Approximately 300 organizations and child related service providers also are seeing 450 grants cuts March 31, 2020. These cuts include the ones to the Parent Link Centers but also to home visitation services, family resources centers and other prevention programs that help parents and families and also try to help that children stay in their families rather than the Alberta foster system. Rebecca Schulz the UCP Children’s Services Minister, is planning on cutting these services by $12 million annually.

 

The Fair Start campaign can be reached through the Alberta Federation of Labour at: 

Mailing Address:
#300, 10408 124 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R5
Phone: 780-483-3021
Website: www.afl.org
E-mail: afl@afl.org