Posted on May 7, 2020
‘TOO LITTLE AND TOO LATE’ NDP MLA SAYS UCP PLAN FOR CHILDCARE SECTOR FALLS SHORT
EDMONTON - Alberta’s NDP Opposition and the childcare sector has been calling on the UCP to provide financial support for childcare centres since they were shut down in March. Yesterday, the government finally gave in, but what was announced is just a drop in the bucket.
“The amount of financial support being provided is a fraction of what the government has budgeted to support our childcare system. $17.8 million spread over 2800 childcare providers over 3 months, when the Minister has up to $25 million to invest per month, is simply not enough. It’s too little, too late.” said Rakhi Pancholi, NDP Children’s Services Critic.
“But most importantly, what childcare operators, parents and educators need to know right now is what the health and safety protocols are going to be for the reopening of childcare centers. Let's keep in mind that this is scheduled to happen in one week.”
UCP Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz has indicated health and safety protocols will likely look the same as the ones that apply to the centers that reopen for essential service workers, but centres still haven’t received these protocols. And if that's the case, there will be a limit on the number of spots that each childcare centre can reopen after May 14. This is important information for childcare centers and parents to know now.
“Childcare centres have to make a determination whether or not they can viably open. Many of these centers are used to having capacity of well over a 100 kids. If they're limited to 24 spots - which was the limit for childcare centres for essential workers - many centres are not going to be able to pay their overhead costs,” Pancholi said.
Without knowing what health & safety protocols will be in place, parents are nervous about sending their kids back to childcare. If they opt out, centers are not going to be filled up to their limited capacity. Child care center operators are saying if they don't have the funding to fill those unfilled spaces and are limited in the number of kids they can bring back, they will not be able to afford to open.
“It’s clear now that when the announcement was made that childcare would reopen on May 14, no planning or consultation was done before that announcement,” Pancholi said. “Key stakeholders like parents and childcare centers were not consulted and all of this haphazard planning is happening now.”
The absence of information is creating intense anxiety for parents and childcare educators, who also have families at home and they're trying to make decisions about whether they feel they can safely return to work. This is a very fragile workforce, which tends to be low paid and it's predominantly women and newcomers who work in this sector. There appears to be no plan to support this workforce.
“I don't believe that we're going to see a successful reopening of the child care system in just over a week. I think it's going to take some time and what we really need to see from this UCP Minister is not just a band-aid approach and promising insufficient dollars, we need to see a long-term plan to rebuild.”