Facilitate access to funds for child care
Babysitting for $10 a day? For Manitoba parents, the promise made by governments in August seemed like cause for celebration. In the seven months since, however, optimism has been tempered by a level of bureaucracy that has frustrated some parents and child care operators.
Good intentions abounded when Manitoba signed a bilateral child care funding agreement with the federal government to help lower the cost of child care, with a goal of $10 a day child care by 2023. Manitoba Families Minister Rochelle Squires said at the time, “This is good news for children and it’s good news for educators and child care providers. .”
It was understandable that the initial announcement did not include information on how the fee would be reduced. The details were still to be settled. The provinces had yet to decide which method they would choose to implement the national program of $30 billion in new child care spending over five years.
While different provinces are introducing different methods of distributing funding, however, it appears that Manitoba has chosen a system that leaves child care operators with a bureaucratic burden.
A relatively simple and transparent model — a model that Manitoba could have chosen, but did not — is called fixed fee reduction. Five provinces have chosen this approach, in which fees are directly reduced so that parents are charged less.
Instead, Manitoba is leaving child care costs unchanged and increasing child care fee subsidies for some parents, based on income. Households with a net income of less than $37,116 are eligible for a full subsidy, while those with an income of less than $82,877 are eligible for a partial subsidy. A government spokesperson said the subsidy threshold method, with its disproportionate benefits for low- and middle-income families, is a first step towards reaching the average parental fee of $10 a day.
The goal of directing funds to families most in need is understandable, even laudable, but daycare operators say the subsidy system has resulted in a frustrating amount of inefficiency and poor administration. They say inadequate communication from the government means many eligible parents are unaware of the existence of the grants.
The operators believe that it is the institutions’ responsibility to inform parents and help them through the tedious process of applying for any subsidies. “They’re throwing it at us,” said one.
Even when parents are aware of possible grants, the hurdles they must jump through to apply are prohibitive for many. Fort Rouge Child Care Board Chair Lori Isber applied for the grant online. Even though she works in web design and is tech savvy, it took her hours and more than one attempt to complete the “pretty bad” process. She noted that many people with English as a second language or with minimal computer skills will drop out before their application is complete.
The province said it is currently considering improving the way child care subsidies are processed. If he intends to pursue his grant threshold method, there should be prominent messages to let parents know that grants are available, and an easy application process even for parents with minimal computer skills. . Keep it simple, keep it transparent.
The overall goal of $10 a day child care by 2023 is admirable and achievable. For Manitoba, it’s about developing a system that isn’t cluttered with bureaucracy.