Ministry of Education extends timeline before $10 a day child care is fully implemented

June 7, 2023, 1:38 pm
Sierra D'Souza Butts

Child care directors and parents continue to express their concerns about not having enough staff and the shortage of available spots in child care centres across Saskatchewan. Photo: Inside of the new Wiggles & Giggles Childcare Centre in Whitewood, that opened in summer 2022.

On May 24, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education announced they would delay fully implementing the $10 a day child care fees across the province until September, 2023 to allow child care centres time to adjust to the new system.

Immediately after the province announce its commitment to charging parents—whose children under the age of six attended regulated child care on a full-time basis—$217.50 per month, a lot of families and child care directors said that the change would impact them in a negative way.

After hearing the unintended consequences the $10 a day child care fees had on families and child care centres, the Government of Saskatchewan decided to delay the full change until the end of June, and most recently told the World-Spectator it will be further extended until September.

As part of the initial delay, the government stated they would be using that time to hear from frontline child care directors and families about how the government could better support them through the transition to $10 a day fees.

“After further consultation and discussion within the sector, the Ministry of Education is going to continue providing fee based on the total number of children under aged six enrolled in the child care facility. We extended that to September 30,” Rory Jensen, Saskatchewan’s Deputy Minister of Education told the World-Spectator.

“This will allow providers more time to adjust to the $10 rollout without any changes to their current funding level. We continue to work with child care providers around the province including the Moosomin area to support them through this transition to $10 a day child care.”

Before the change to $10 a day child care came into affect, majority of child care centers were charging families based on a hourly fee. However, since the $10 a day policy rolled out, centres had to change the structure of their fees, and charge parents on monthly basis or daily basis, as part time spots for child care were no longer permitted.

As such, families are now charged $217.50 a month if their children six and under use a centre’s facility for 10 days or more, and are charged $10 per day if their children six and under use a centre’s space for 9 days or less within a month—parents are charged $10 per day whether their child uses that full day or not.

How does the $10
a day child care work?
Jensen explained how the $10 a day fee for full time children under the age of six works.

“Under the $10 a day, families pay $10 a day for accessing less than 10 days of care, and $217.50 for full time care which averages to $10 per day over the years,” Jensen said.

“Saskatchewan families pay $10 a day regardless if they are attending less than full time and that’s for children under the age of six. The Ministry of Education pays the child care provider the remainder of the facility’s fee to make sure the providers are not receiving less income than they were prior to the $10 a day announcement.”

At the time that provincial government announced its initial delay in fully implementing the $10 a day child care, they also rolled out a Parent Reduction Grant that would support child care facilities.

The grant helps cover the difference in expenses for centres that would potentially be lost income due to the reduction in child care being $10 for parents.

While speaking with the World-Spectator, Jensen was asked how the Government of Saskatchewan plans to address child care centre’s concerns of staff shortages and limited spots for child care.

“We’re working to develop a long term early childhood educator workforce strategy that will layout long-term vision for growth in the sector,” he said.

“That will ensure childhood educators receive competitive wages, and that there is sufficient workforce to meet the expansion under the Canada-Saskatchewan Early Learning and Childcare Agreement.”

Child care centres face challenges
Cara Werner, director of Dream Big Child Care said the child care centre in Rocanville have been experiencing staff shortages.

“Realistically, we can’t expand anymore than we are because there’s such a staffing shortage already,” said Werner.

Werner said she would like to see the provincial government work more closely with front line child care workers when rolling out future child care policies.

“Another concern I would say is not consulting with front line staff before making these big decisions to see what actually works,” said Werner.

“At the end of the day this isn’t just a job, these are families in our communities and people who we are trying to take care of, and these are the people that it affects the most.”

Director of Whitewood Wiggles & Giggles Childcare Centre Nichole Kessel said having a workforce strategy will help child care centres attract and keep more Early Childhood Educators (ECE).

“Having the workforce strategy from the government will help with staff retention,” said Kessel.

Kessel said the child care center she works at has the capacity to hold 36 spaces, but only 17 are filled due to the staffing crisis they are experiencing.

“We are up to eight staff members who have quit in 10 months now,” she said.

“Having raises would help make a more sustainable wage over the poverty line because right now my staff are making under the poverty line, plus benefits and a pension to retire on would be great too.”

Workforce strategy is coming, says provincial government
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education was asked what the expected timeline is for the provincial government to release the Workforce Strategy, and if it will include the details of the provincial wage grid for ECEs.

“Saskatchewan is committed to attracting, retaining and growing a strong and skilled workforce of early childhood educators as the province expands regulated early learning and child care spaces,” said Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education.

“The Ministry of Education will be engaging the early learning and child care sector in the near future to get feedback on the goals and direction for the Provincial Workforce Strategy.

“Within the last two years, the Government of Saskatchewan announced wage enhancements of up to $3 per hour for Level I ECEs; up to $4 per hour for Level II ECEs and up to $5 per hour for Level III ECEs.

“The ministry, in consultation with key stakeholders, is conducting a child care funding review to develop a new funding model for all regulated child care facilities to ensure facilities remain viable and have access to sustainable long-term funding for their core operations.”