After-school care breaks Ridge family’s budget

Neil Corbett, Maple Ridge News

Having her child go from daycare to kindergarten is going to cost a struggling Maple Ridge mom hundreds of dollars every month.

Drea Beye lost a six-year-old son to a brain tumour, and in the wake of that, her marriage dissolved. She’s trying to keep the family home for herself and her five-year-old son, and finds herself in a situation where every extra $20 bill counts.

“It’s been a rough haul. I try to keep stability.”

So she was floored when she learned that having her child go from being in full-time daycare to kindergarten with after-school care is going to break her budget. Daycare cost $550 per month, but Beye qualified for government subsidy, and her cost was a manageable $55 per month.

After-school care costs $325 per month, and Beye does not qualify for any subsidy. A different threshold is used to calculate the daycare subsidy than for after-school care, she was told.

“You can only make welfare or minimum wage,” she guesses. “I’m trying not to be a burden on society. I just need a couple more years to get my income up, and then I won’t need the subsidy anymore.”

She earns $35,000 per year, and says it gets consumed by a mortgage, bills, groceries, transit and the expenses of supporting her small family. The threshold for the government subsidy varies depending on the number of people in the family, the household income and other factors.

Beye now faces an additional $270 per month in expenses.

“It was hard before, but I still made it,” she said. “This is over the edge of what I can pay.”….

She doesn’t see a way to make more money.

“I don’t know how we’ll afford to eat.”

Sharon Gregson, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., said countless families across the province face the same dilemma as Beye. They are working people who will be forced to ask for help at community food banks, and get whatever other supports they keep their families afloat.

Gregson explained that when the government created full-day kindergarten it rolled back the threshold for the subsidy for after-school care.

“It’s just one of the many symptoms of a dysfunctional, bureaucratic subsidy system we have now,” she said.

Her group is promoting a “$10 A Day Child Care Plan” in B.C., which would make that the maximum paid by any person who needs child care, anywhere in the province. The plan has the support of 21 municipalities including Vancouver and Surrey.

She said Quebec has a $7 per day plan, and studies show the cost of the plan is returned to the economy by an increase in the labour force.

Gregson said the lack of affordable child care is the largest obstacle many people face in getting employment.

“There’s no point in the government having a jobs plan if you don’t have a daycare plan.”

Her group espouses a slow change, that would begin by transferring the responsibility for all daycare to the Ministry of Education, which already operates schools on a per-child basis.

She said the $10 per day plan would help the government address child poverty – B.C.’s child poverty rate is the second worst in Canada, behind only Manitoba, as well as the need for more women in the work force.

“It’s scandalous that a provincial government continues to ignore the problem for working families, and particularly working mothers,” said Gregson.

Beye has contacted her MP, MLA and others to see if she can get help.

Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton acknowledged he received her letter, and has referred the issue to a staff member…

“We have balanced budget legislation. We’re not looking at taking on big social programs that are very expensive.”