Author: Peter Cantelon, Executive Director
It’s an odd thing to say there can be a curse to abundance, particularly when you hear it coming from the Executive Director of a non-profit focused on poverty reduction. Shouldn’t we seek as much abundance as we can? Absolutely – but there is a right way and a wrong way.
Let me explain.
When the Federal government announced a willingness to partner with provinces to provide $10 per day daycare there was much rejoicing. This was a fantastic new program which absolutely made life more affordable for parents (couples and especially single parents) throughout Manitoba and the other provinces that have partnered on this.
Fast forward to today and we encounter an interesting scenario unfolding. Jubilee Fund has started seeing an increase in the number of daycares approaching it for lending assistance. This is great because this is what we specialize in – offering lending supports to non-profits, social enterprises, and individuals in ways that reduce poverty.
Specifically, new and emerging daycare needs have arisen around having to dramatically increasing the number of spaces available. Still not seeing a problem?
Well, the need for additional space has grown substantially as the number of people accessing $10 per day childcare has grown and waiting lists have swollen dramatically. Herein lies the problem – the new funding program never took into account the downstream impact it might have on the daycare sector and its potential infrastructure requirements (or perhaps it did but those problems were ignored for political reasons).
While funding was provided for $10 per day daycare there has been no additional funding made available to expand infrastructure to meet the dramatically increased need. This has left daycare facilities throughout the province scrambling to find whatever financing they can to grow via construction or the purchase of additional buildings.
Some work is being done in rural Manitoba to build new facilities through the innovative provincial non-profit John Q but it does not apply to the growing needs in Winnipeg.
To compound matters even further the $10 per day funding is geared to ages five and under. School age children do not qualify and so there are fewer funded spaces available to them. This means that as the large number of children aged five and under enter the system school-aged children are being pushed out do to lack of capacity and funding.
In Morden (where I live) this is the reason the local daycare reduced its age to Grade 1 and under eliminating a number of school-aged spaces leaving parents scrambling to find replacement care – it no longer has the capacity or funding to support older ages. This creates a looming problem for parents who work long shifts, or jobs with inflexible hours because they need to ensure care is available to their children.
The point? When funding is being planned there absolutely needs to be thorough consideration for the downstream effects of said funding. On the surface the provision of an abundance of money to reduce the childcare burden on parents seems like a no-brainer. But this very abundance could end of creating significant issues downstream as children become school-age and potentially lose their spots, not to mention their being any spots available at all due to a lack of infrastructure.
Further adding to the already challenging circumstance is the struggle to find staff for daycares. Even if the funding and capital infrastructure issues are resolved there remains the struggle of recruitment.
Imagine if it was announced that every Canadian of driving age was going to be given an electric vehicle at no charge to help Canada meet its carbon reduction targets. Fantastic! Loads of people would be celebrating…for about 24 hours until we began to realize the significant lack of EV charging infrastructure across the country and access to the appropriate number of trained mechanics who can service them. Suddenly what seemed like a good idea has saddled people with millions of useless vehicles.
All of this to say that funding partners like varying levels of government need to do a better job of analyzing and offsetting the downstream impacts of significant grants and agreements.
They need to consider the impact on the market and the subsequent impact of capacity and staffing and then work these needs into the same funding program to avoid causing more problems than they resolve.
There are other areas where this is going to become an evident problem as the government expands access to free dental care and possibly introduces a universal pharmacare program. Let’s hope thought is being put into the broader needs.