County falling short of access targets for licensed child care

GUELPH – A new report on growth priorities for licensed child care shows Wellington County has not yet reached access targets under the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) system.

Ontario’s Action Plan for implementing the CWELCC system includes developing a framework for targeted space creation and providing funding for start-up grants to support the creation of new, affordable licensed child care spaces, prioritizing full-day spaces for children up to age four, in targeted locations and for populations most in need.

The provincial framework calls for improving access to CWELCC spaces for children aged five and younger to a provincial average access rate of 37 per cent by 2026. 

Overall access in Wellington County’s service delivery area is currently at 22.6%, according to a report to the county’s social services committee from director of children’s early years division Mandy Koroniak.

The county figure indicates access rates to full-day, full-year licensed child care spaces for children up to age four (infants, toddlers, preschoolers).

Among local municipalities, Erin has the highest access rate at 34.9%, followed by Guelph/Eramosa at 32.7%, Guelph at 28.8%, Centre Wellington at 15.1%, Minto at 10.3%, Wellington North at 8.9%, and Puslinch and Mapleton with access rates of zero.

At the Sept. 28 county council meeting, social services committee chair councillor Dave Anderson said the report “gives us a critical perspective of the needs in our community.”

Social services administrator Luisa Artuso explained the Wellington Directed Growth Plan (WDGP) is a document that’s been required by the Ministry of Education for every municipality to develop as more child care programs are coming on to the CWELCC system seeking to access the federal dollars that can be applied early learning and child care dollars. 

“Administrators will look at that (application) and see if it’s aligned with the growth plan,” Artuso explained.

“There are situations where people are developing new childcare spaces, they come to … get approval and they have to submit to the ministry (of education) that they are in line with that growth plan.”

Koroniak’s report explains the WDGP “will inform prospective and current child care operators where more licensed child care spaces are needed most in the Wellington service delivery area. It will also be used by the children’s early years division to prioritize and approve new enrolments in the CWELCC system as per the ministry’s requirements.”

Councillor Mary Lloyd noted the report appears to be “identifying shortages all throughout our municipalities. 

“Is this report the tool to go to the province of Ontario and ask for more funding to create more spaces or develop more programs to create more spaces for licensed child care in our municipalities?” Lloyd asked.

Anderson said while the province is targeting a 37% access rate, it will take time to reach the goal under the CWELCC system, which aims to lower licensed day care costs to $10 per day by 2025.

“We’re not currently there yet. We are restricted by flow of money, availability, funding and also trained staff. So that is something that is an ongoing thing,” said Anderson.

“We have our goals set, we’re looking forward to trying to meet those numbers and it’s not going to happen over a short period of time.”