New child care funding more 'fair'

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A new child care funding model throughout the counties aims to incentivize day care providers to create more infant and toddler spaces.

Alison Tutak, the director of community and social services for the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, said at a meeting Wednesday the system they’ve been using for the last six years has proven to be unfair to those providing spaces for little ones.

Tutak said the current revenue-based funding model provides no incentive to create spaces for infants, something she said is desperately needed in this area.

A new points-based funding system aims to make the system more fair.

“We don’t have a lot of incentive in our system to try to encourage and support child care programs to expand spaces in the infant and toddler categories,” she said.

“If a child care program is going to receive the same amount of general operating funds for a before-and-after school space as they do for an infant and toddler space, there’s no incentive. The spaces are so expensive to operate, but yet our system needs the infant and toddler spaces.”

Under the current model, child care providers are given funding based on how much revenue they bring in. Generally, providers will get more funding with school-aged students because it requires fewer adults to care for them. One adult can care for 12 school-aged children but one adult can only care for three infants.

This disproportionately affected infant and toddler care spaces because they inherently bring in less money since it costs significantly more to offer space for them.

The new funding model will change the criteria for funding and provide a fairer method of distribution.

Tutak recommended moving to a points-based system, which would give providers points based on a variety of factors, as opposed to giving them money based on how much revenue they bring in.

Those factors include their hours of operation and the types of child care spaces they offer. If a provider offers infant and toddler spaces, or has longer hours of operation, it will receive more points in the new calculation.

This will inevitably incentivize providers to open more infant and toddler spaces, if they have the physical space to do so, because the funding will now be based on their operational needs.

“That’s a really important thing that we want to encourage and incentivize our child care programs to want to, and realize they can, create those (infant and toddler) spaces without a direct cost to them and that we’re going to reward that,” Tutak said.

There are 15 licensed child care providers in Leeds and Grenville – five are commercial and 10 are non-profit. The total amount of funding provided to licensed child care providers in 2018 was $2,265,000.

The new funding model is not based on an increase in money, but more a redistribution of the money they already have, Tutak said.

The counties first gained the ability from the province to allocate child care funding on its own about six years ago, at which time they decided to go on the revenue-based model.

“Over time, we started to realize the unfairness of it,” Tutak said.

There will be some drawbacks to the new system, however.

The new funding model will mean there will “absolutely be people who will have less money” coming in – though some will get more – but it will not result in any child care programs closing, said Tutak.

It is expected that there will be eight licensed child care programs that will have reductions in their overall funding, a report to counties council says, but they plan to work one-on-one with those providers to help mitigate the drop in funding over the next couple of years.

sbedford@postmedia.com

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