Why the announcement of Saskatchewan's new child care discount has left many providers scrambling
While the announcement of child care grants in Saskatchewan comes as welcome news for many parents, it is also creating its fair share of headaches for many child care providers.
Late last week, the Saskatchewan government revealed that starting February, parents and caregivers with children under the age of six in provincially licensed child care will be eligible for a new federally-funded grant that will range from $306 to $395 monthly depending on the age of the child and type of child care.
The money will be supplied directly to child care providers to reduce upfront costs for parents.
However, the extra workload of administering the federal funding could prove challenging for some child care centres.
“Some centres have got an executive director who is devoted to nothing but office time, and therefore they've got the time in the office to get some of this done,” said Kim Carpenter, assistant director at Roots of Learning Childcare in Saskatoon.
“Our director here, if we have a staff sick or even sometimes if things are chaotic during the day, she's out of this office and on the floor with us," Carpenter said.
"If we've got some extra support time put in then I've got office time, but I don't have any devoted office time. So given that, it definitely is overwhelming."
Parents may also receive a refund for a portion of the child care fees they have paid going back to July 1, depending on their child's age, which will also be administered by child care providers.
Carpenter said she feels the province didn't give providers enough time to prepare.
“It does feel a little bit that they aren't respecting us as professionals, to throw this in and say we want it done next month,” she said.
She says she understands price reductions are important to families—some are living month-to-month—but feels "a more professional" approach would have shown more respect to the sector.
Overall, Child Care Now Saskatchewan spokesperson Sue Delanoy calls the new discount for parents "good for Saskatchewan."
“We have the lowest amount of regulated childcare probably across the country, so building this robust system will be really, really important.”
But, Delanoy says some childcare centres have unanswered questions and were left scrambling after the announcement.
“What does this look like, what forms do I need to fill out, is this retroactive … what exactly do we need to do, who is responsible for what?”, were examples of the confusion, she said.
“It's all great news, it really is, and how we roll this out and how we implement this will be the challenge; the more transparent and the more collaborative we can be, the better we'll be.”
While, as Delanoy points out, some providers have questions or concerns, others are expecting a smooth transition to the new program.
“We have very effective administration processes,” Tykes N Tots Daycare executive director Nancy Lautner said.
“We use technology really effectively, so for us, it's not a big deal. I've been working with my business administrator on this and we're kind of fighting over who gets to do it.”
“I understand that not everyone has the same type of systems that we have, we're a large organization where we're able to have these sort of effective admin systems and technologies that we use. And if you don't have that, it would be quite challenging.”
Lautner said the idea of giving parents their retroactive payments as credit was discussed, the centre decided on doing refunds across the board.
“This is real simple, like we had the banking information in there; instead of pulling fees from their account, we put money back in," she said.
In an emailed statement to CTV News, a Ministry of Education representative said there are plans to offer funding to provided to licensed child care facilities to help cover the costs associated with administering the grants.
"A one per cent admin fee will be added to the total grant amounts for the retroactive period from July to December and to the ongoing monthly grant amounts to support child care operators," the statement said.
The ministry statement it wants to "ensure parents see a reduction in fees as soon as possible, making life more affordable for Saskatchewan families and benefitting the provincial economy."
With files from Josh Lynn.