by Iryn Tushabe
The more you make, the more you spend. This continues to be particularly true for middle income families in need of childcare in Saskatchewan.
The provincial 2013-14 budget provides $2.3 million dollars of new funding towards creation of 500 additional child care spaces, operating funding for existing licensed daycares, and capital support for eligible school-based sites.
But the Child Care Subsidy program has been reduced by $2 million from $18.175 million last year to $16.175 million in this budget.
The Child Care Subsidy program is a monthly subsidy that helps Saskatchewan families meet the costs of childcare by paying a portion of the fee directly to the licensed childcare facility.
According to June Draude, minister of social services, the reason for the decrease in child care subsidies is that more families now have a higher income which disqualifies them from accessing the subsidy.
“What’s happening is that more families are making higher incomes, so the subsidy they get isn’t as high as their income has increased. But the people who are low income will keep getting enough subsidy,” she said.
But Danielle Chartier, New Democratic Deputy caucus chair and critic for early learning and childcare, sees a problem with the system.
“As income keeps going up, the government needs to ensure that the parameters for the program change to reflect that. The reality is that at $1,640 a month, families start to lose the maximum status subsidy and that hasn’t changed since 1983, so fewer and fewer people qualify for subsidies which is a problem for families,” she said.
“Low income people struggle but the middle income group really struggles too. I was talking to someone yesterday who spends $1,200 in childcare a month, which is a lot of money. That’s a huge chunk of these families’ budgets,” said Chartier.
For Chartier, the additional 500 daycare spaces are not nearly enough to meet Saskatchewan’s growing population.
“If you look at 15,000 live childbirths here in the province, 500 new daycare (spaces) is a drop in the bucket and doesn’t even touch the need. There are already long waiting lists everywhere,” she said.
According to Chartier, supporting childcare is not only good for the families but for the province’s economic development as well.
“People can’t stay in paid labour if they can’t find a daycare. If people can’t find childcare or if it becomes too expensive for them, you might just as well stay home and that’s what some people are doing,” she said.
University of Regina President, Vianne Timmons anticipates that the government will fund construction of a new daycare facility on campus to cater to the growing need for childcare spots for students with children.
“In our new residence plan we have additional spots, so that will double the daycare spots on campus to 180. And still it won’t meet the need, but it's a great great investment,” said Timmons.
The combined number of families on the waiting lists for both Oasis and Wascana Childcare Co-ops, the University's two daycares, is up to 1,000.