Federal budget’s daycare support pleases Island family-help agencies

OTTAWA – The federal budget has taken on a number of issues near and dear to the social services community and the reaction has been decidedly positive.

“The great news in the budget is the $10 per day childcare,” said Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board CAO Fern Dominelli. “I think the federal government realizes that provision of a high quality, affordable and accessible early learning and child care system across Canada is critical to the success of the economy and the perhaps will be a pillar in the economic recovery after the pandemic.”

“There is reason for optimism which is definitely welcomed right now,” said Marnie Hall, executive director of Manitoulin Family Resources. “The pandemic has certainly highlighted and confirmed the needs of community members that have been long-standing and frequently voiced in the areas of childcare, women’s services and violence against women’s services (VAW). The announcement regarding increased funding and access to services in child care and VAW is a wonderful step; we remain hopeful that this will be a dynamic plan that continues to adapt to changing needs as they unfold. These were pre-pandemic needs that have grown and have new requirements as a result of the pandemic, that will need to be voiced, and heard and integrated.”

The budget struck chords in a number of areas for Ms. Hall, but those chords play only part of a greater melody. “Ongoing adequate funding for programming, for critical infrastructure, for capital needs, for ongoing maintenance, this all needs to be part of that larger plan,” she said. “We have learned a great amount in the past year of the complexity of how systems interconnect. There is a significant investment planned within VAW for transitional housing support, but we need available housing to make that truly effective. We are hearing of expanding child care accessibility through affordability, but we will need physical spaces and educators to accommodate that. The ability to recruit and retain early childhood educators and social workers through properly compensated positions within childcare and VAW will be necessary in order to not continue to lose them to the sectors of education, health and mental health because the same credentials are better compensated.”

“This budget is a ray of hope in having concerns heard, but we also hope that those making decisions will continue to dialogue with those providing frontline services,” Ms. Hall continued. “These sectors have required significant additional resources for years; they were hurting, and it will be crucial in months ahead to not try to apply a Band-Aid approach to something that could easily hemorrhage. Our community demographics have changed through this pandemic, the needs of our community members will have as well and that will continue. It’s crucial at this time to not only integrate the needs that we’ve known have existed for years, but also have the foresight to provide for what we ought reasonably know should be coming.”