While provincial funding for childcare in Alberta was increased in Budget 2013, childcare providers are sounding the alarm after learning a grant that’s been in place for a decade is on the chopping block and there are concerns it could affect the cost of childcare for families.
The Quality Funding Grant started in 2003, and was worth $4000 for accredited before and after school programs and $7500 for accredited childcare centres and day homes – and was meant to encourage programs to become accredited.
Daycare programs had been using the funds for training, professional development for staff, and to buy equipment and quality toys.
“That extra money has really enhanced programs, and it’s sad to see it go,” Monica Gregoire with Fulton Childcare said.
“In the long term we’re going to see a decline in quality because centres are not going to have the money to keep improving their programs.”
A number of childcare providers said the loss of the grant will be a tough change to stomach.
“If you’re not going to be able to take staff and send them to workshops and update them on new information on early childhood education, then it ultimately trickles down to the children in the classroom,” Sue McLean with the Oliver Centre said.
Kristy Thomas with the McKernan Child Development Centre said parents might be on the hook to cover the difference.
“Unfortunately with this cut we’re going to have to look at asking the parents to help us with this,” Thomas said.
Public Interest Alberta said Monday that losing this grant is going to have an effect on families.
“Alberta already provides amongst the lowest funding in Canada for childcare,” Bill Moore-Kilgannon with Public Interest Alberta said. “So this cut is further going to exacerbate the problems, there are far too many families on waiting lists that are unable to get into quality childcare, so we are deeply concerned about this cut.”
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Human Services sent a letter to childcare operators, informing them of the cut – the letter said while funding for childcare had increased; the ministry’s costs were under the microscope.
The province said the grant had had its desired effect, and is not needed– as almost all of the province’s childcare facilities are accredited.
“Most of the day cares across the province are accredited now, so that part of the grant that was in place is not very relevant anymore,” Human Services spokesperson Craig Loewen said.
While there are concerns the cut will translate to increased daycare fees, Loewen said that is unfounded – the province said in Budget 2013, childcare was given a $5 million boost.
As a result, the province said families will continue to be supported through child care subsidies to offset the costs – and funding will be available to eligible programs and staff through wage top-ups, professional development and recruiting.
The province said $7 million was saved by cutting the grant, which will happen effective April 1.
With files from Susan Amerongen