Childcare advisory council calls for City council cooperation

Timothy Schafer, Nelson Daily

The shortage of childcare spaces in Nelson is not going to be solved any time soon.

But to help address the problem and lessen its impact, Val Mayes of the Nelson Early Childhood Advisory Council and Dorothy Kaytor — regional Early Years coordinator — called on City council Monday night to help in solving the problem.

There is a challenge with affordability of childcare options in Nelson, and with wages and benefits insufficient for early childhood educators, there is a high turnover and long-term staff vacancies.

Certainly working together is a big part of the solution for that, said Mayes. The advisory council is a networking mechanism for people who work in the early childhood sector and they wanted to add in a City voice.

“We would love to have a dedicated representative from council. We think what we have to offer is very easy access, for you, to a whole bunch of professionals who know what is going on here in the world of childcare.”

They felt the partnership already existing on the advisory council would be strengthened with a municipal government representative. To further that network, the NECA council recently joined in with SPAN, the Social Planning Action Network….

Addressing the problem

Through their Community Action Plan 2010-2012, the advisory council presented six recommendations for future action, including one City councilor sitting on the NECA council.

Other recommendations included taking action to create additional and affordable child care spaces; strengthen and support coordinated efforts at community and regional level; build on existing services for families; and connect with non-traditional partners.

Considering the special characteristics of the region was also on the list.

Although there are a high number of children being born in Nelson — and a high number of families — it is an area that municipal government has not dabbled with, said Mayor John Dooley.

“We did try at one point to get some (childcare) spaces created here in the building, but we couldn’t get much traction on it,” he said. “At that time one of the challenges we faced were the lack of people with the expertise to fill the position (of such a centre).”

It continues to be a profession that people love the work, because they won’t go into it for the money, said Mayes.

“It’s shocking what they pay people,” she said.

Selkirk College just added a new aspect to their educational realm and now the early childcare program offers students a diploma for those who enroll, said Kaytor.

But even if childcare was offered at City Hall, there are a lot of families that could not afford the money to send their children in. There is a great disparity between the low-income families who can’t afford to send their children to childcare, and the more affluent.

Mayor Dooley said the federal government’s $100 a month stipend for childcare isn’t enough — Kaytor said in Nelson it costs $45 a day for childcare — while the Province contributes 20 per cent to the cost of childcare in BC.