Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The region is set to receive $5 million more than anticipated for child care services from the provincial government in 2017.
In a report to regional council, staff indicated Durham will receive an additional $5,165,355 in “unbudgeted provincial funding”.
The total allocation from the province in 2017 will be $52,783,568, an increase of $5,665,355 from 2016.
In addition to accepting the funding, regional council also approved a staff request to hire five additional staff members for the children’s services department at a price tag of $570,000 over two years.
The additional staff is set to include:
– One full-time behaviour consultant to support licensed child care programs to ensure inclusion of children with special needs at a 2017 estimated cost of $52,000 (anticipated hire date of July 2017; annualized cost is $104,000). According to the staff report, with increased expansion of child care spaces over the next few years, there is a greater demand for such services. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, there were 190 referrals for services. Currently, there are 137 individuals waiting for ongoing consultation and 66 individuals waiting for intensive consultation services
– One full-time program manager for Durham Behaviour Management services to effectively supervise the increased staff levels and address increasing waiting lists for service, at a 2017 estimated cost of $62,000 (anticipated hire date of July 2017; annualized cost is $123,000). Currently there are eight behaviour consultants reporting to one program manager. Staff indicated hiring a second program manager will require less direct supervision reports and will improve the intake process and reduce waiting times for initial services
– One full-time caseworker to manage the fee subsidy eligibility process and placing families off the waiting list, at a 2017 estimated cost of $52,000 (anticipated hire date of July 2017; annualized cost is $104,000). Durham Region currently has a waiting list of approximately 3,100 people who require subsidized child care. According to the staff report, this position will speed up the intake process and reduce wait times
– One full-time pedagogical consultant who will serve as a resource to the early learning and child care sector and support quality, at a 2017 estimated cost of $52,000 and one full-time policy advisor to support the director and senior report management team in maintaining provincial legislative policy requirements and system management requirements, at a 2017 estimated cost of $68,000.
Clarington councillor Joe Neal originally questioned the need for the additional staff, stating he believes the full amount should be spent on creating new child care spaces.
Roxanne Lambert, director of children’s services division, says the creation of new child care spaces equals an increased workload for staff.
Lambert says the region is aiming to have accommodate 670 child care spaces in 2017.
Oshawa councillor Amy McQuaid-England praised the increased funding.
“I really want to thank the provincial government for what they’ve done,” McQuaid-England says, noting there have “been significant improvements under the Liberal government” to child care.
“I know we will be able to decrease the waitlist,” McQuaid-England added.
Pickering councillor David Pickles called it “a very good news item”.
“It means a lot of new child care and early childhood education spaces,” Pickles says.
Despite a plea from McQuaid-England, regional council has also moved ahead with increasing child care-related fees.
The fee increases range from 25 cents to $1 and are scheduled to come into effect on Sept. 1. Council passed the recommendation by a 15 to nine vote.
In particular, the rate for full day infant care will increase $1 to $52 while full day toddler care will increase to $46.50 from $45.50 among other changes.
It is estimated that the rate increases will generate approximately $24,000 in new revenue for the region.
McQuaid-England says she felt they were “nickel and diming people” with the increases.
“We can absorb (these increases) into our overall budget. We should be signalling that we care about parents in this region,” McQuaid-England says, adding she thinks the increases will affect those who are currently waiting for subsidized child care.
Commissioner of social services Hugh Druoin says the rate increases help to ensure the region doesn’t “undercut” its “comparators.”
He says if the region offers child care that is significantly cheaper than other providers, those who can afford child care more easily will simply come to them, which will in turn affect those waiting for a subsidy.
“We’ve always tried to keep at our below the market level to keep the others in fair competition,” he says.