Yesterday, Premier Christy Clark unveiled her latest promise to B.C. Families…the Early Years Strategy.
The goal, said Clark, is “…to build a strategy to improve child care, early childhood development and learning opportunities, we consulted with those who know best: parents and early childhood experts…their ideas led directly to our provincial Early Years Strategy. It’s about helping parents balance the demands of work and raising a family, and setting children up for lifelong success.”
I received this notice from the Premier’s office:
The B.C. Early Years Strategy is an eight-year government commitment to support early childhood development and help families with child care. Government spending on early years services will increase by $76 million in the first three years of the strategy:
* $32 million to support the creation of new child-care spaces.
* $37 million in support of improving the overall quality of early years services, including child care.
* $7 million to strengthen the co-ordination of early childhood development programs and child-care services.
The foundation of the strategy is the establishment this year of a Provincial Office for Early Years to co-ordinate all policy and service improvements. Working closely with communities and the early years sector, the office will lead the implementation of a network of early years centres throughout the province that will offer one-stop access to a range of services.
As part of the strategy, a new BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit will provide $146 million to approximately 180,000 families with children under the age of six. Starting in 2015, eligible families with net incomes under $100,000 will receive the maximum refundable tax credit of $55 a month or $660 a year per child.
New supports will also make it easier for families to access high-quality child care.
* An amendment to the School Act will ensure boards of education promote the use of their property for child-care purposes to support a seamless day of school and child care.
* The Province will invest $32 million over the next three years to create up to 2,000 new licensed child-care spaces, with the goal of opening 13,000 additional spaces over the next eight years. Emphasis will be placed on creating spaces on school grounds and in areas currently underserved by child care. This initiative will build on the more than 100,000 spaces currently supported by government.
* Over the next three years government will also provide an additional $37 million to strengthen and enhance the overall quality of early years services and encourage child-care providers to improve the quality of their services.
Other measures include:
* Strategies to support stronger links between child-care services, early years programs such as StrongStart BC and Ready, Set Learn as well as early childhood mental health and special needs programs.
* Creating a provincial child-care registry to provide parents with better information about the availability of spaces in their communities.
* Working with the sector to further improve Early Childhood Educator and out-of-school care provider training.
* Exploring licensing changes for child-care spaces to better serve the needs of parents and child care providers while maintaining health and safety standards.
The B.C. Early Years Strategy builds on the $1 billion per year government currently spends on early childhood development, child care and early learning, which includes a range of Children and Youth with Special Needs supports and full-day kindergarten for five year-olds.
To learn more about the current range of early years services in B.C. and the strategy to make programs and services more integrated, accessible, affordable and higher quality, read the B.C. Early Years Strategy:
After reading this, a few emails and related new articles, I’m unconvinced that this strategy is going to have any immediate impact on the cost of raising a family in B.C. From what I understand, much of what was promised won’t actually come into effect for years, so I don’t know how that helps families today. Also, I am wary of promises made by government in the lead up to an election.
What are your thoughts? A solid, well-thought-out initiative or rash window dressing meant to win the votes of young families?