Demand outstrips supply and a waiting list prioritises children in low-income households with special needs or those in 'high risk' situations.
Hamilton, Canada, Sept 2012 - It's a very long wait for some children in Hamilton to find a spot in the city's subsidized childcare system. Right now, there are 1,623 kids in that line.
In 2012, the province allocated $C36.9 million to overall childcare costs in Hamilton, an increase of 89 per cent since 2003, according to the Ministry of Education.
The city's annual childcare subsidy budget represents approximately $C22 million, says Jane Soldera, Director of Community Services Department Social Development & Early Childhood Services Division in Hamilton. At the moment, 3,779 children are receiving childcare fee subsidies, she reports.
Yet when it comes to offering subsidized childcare support to families in need, demand outstrips supply. In 2007-8, that demand went up by 18 per cent.
“By year end 2011,” says Soldera, it had increased by “54 percent over the same time in 2010.”
Since 2008, Hamilton has been dealing with that increased burden through the creation of a wait list. At the top of the list are kids in low-income households with special needs or those deemed in 'high-risk' situations (these kids are given access to the subsidy immediately).
Next on the list: kids from households that have a family income below Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-off (LICO) (In 2011, the before tax LICO was $C27,674 for a single person with a child). In priority three is the overflow from priority two.
Soldera admits it's “difficult to predict with accuracy how long someone will wait.” Kids in priority two have been waiting for a place in subsidized childcare since February 2012, she says, while families in priority three have been waiting since January 2010.
“Hamilton's economy is suffering because of the large waitlist for childcare subsidies,” says Sara Mayo, social planner at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton. Mayo suggests that the “increase in the childcare subsidy waiting list since March mirrors a small but steady decrease in the number of social assistance recipients in Hamilton.”
“If more childcare subsidies were available, the social assistance caseload could be decreasing at an even faster rate,” she adds.
For more, visit cbc.ca.