New Brunswick Federation of Labour’s Brief

Government of New Brunswick Child Care Sector Task Force

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314-96 Norwood Avenue

Moncton, New Brunswick E1C 6L9

(506) 857-2125

fttnbfl2@nb.aibn.com

www.nbfl-fttnb.ca

 

  

 

October 2015

 

 

Introduction

 

On behalf of the 40,000 workers affiliated to the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, it is a pleasure to submit this brief to the Government of New Brunswick Child Care Sector Task Force. The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) is the central voice of organized labour in the province. For over 100 years, the NBFL has played a key role in the economic and social advancement of workers, their families and their communities.

 

Accessing quality and affordable child care is an essential support to workers in the province. When child care programs are of high quality, it benefits parents, children, the economy and society at large. Our recommendation is for the provincial government to build a public system of integrated early learning and child care programs. This approach is based on research and best practices that show:

 

  • Public spending on early learning and child care is smart both economically and socially;
  • Quality child care is the same thing as early learning, poor quality is not;
  • Children and families need quality care and early learning programs;
  • New Brunswick`s current approach to child care is not working.

 

 

Current situation

 

Lack of affordability of child care

Child care services are not funded as a public service in New Brunswick. Some public funding is attached to low-income families through the Daycare Assistance Program and some funds flow to programs to improve staff wages through the Quality Improvement Funding Support (QIFS) Program. Some public funding is also available to support staff training and space creation through the New Brunswick Early Learning and Child Care Trust Fund.

 

Most of the funding for child care, though, comes from parent fees. This means that for many families, licensed child care is not affordable and/or simply not an option. As indicated in Table 1, child care fees in New Brunswick range from $3,700 to $7,800 per year.

 

When median family income is factored in (Table 2), families spend a high percentage of their income on licensed child care (Table 3). Even when the child care tax deduction and subsidy for low-income families are factored in, there is an affordability gap.

 

Table 1: Average child care fees in licensed child care in New Brunswick1

Age Monthly parent fees Annual Parent fees
Infant care $652 $7,824
Preschool age care $552 $6,624
School age care $310 $3,720

Table 2: Median after-tax family income in New Brunswick 2

Type of family Median Income
Two-parent family $62,546
Single-parent family $35,308

 

Table 3: Percentage after-tax family income spent on child care 3

Family type Number of children in care Percentage of Income
Two-parent family One child: infant 12.5%
Single-parent family One child: infant 22%
Two-parent family Two children: infant + preschooler 23%
Single-parent family Two children: infant + preschooler 41%
Two-parent family Two children: preschooler + school-aged 16.5%
Single-parent family Two children: preschooler + school-aged 29%

 

To put this into rather harsh perspective, it costs more in child care fees per year than it does for a year of university tuition. The average annual university tuition in New Brunswick amounts to $6,324.4 The cost of licensed child care is second only to a family’s housing costs. The average monthly shelter costs in New Brunswick amount to $762 ($9,144 per year).2

 

In 2010, the New Brunswick Child Care Coalition released the results of its participatory research project called Mother’s Voices. The 80 mothers who participated in the project examined three distinct funding models that governments use to invest public dollars in child care, namely: fund the parent, fund the program and fund the system.

 

The fund the parent model is a market-based approach where parents pay most of the costs of child care. In this model, government may pay for the costs of child care on behalf of qualifying low-income parents. Program are developed by private commercial or non-profit entrepreneurs/operators. Examples of the fund the parent funding model: Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) and New Brunswick Daycare Assistance Program.

 

In the fund the program model, government funds are directed towards individual child care providers. Public funding is divided and allocated through various initiatives with different focusses. Child care providers must apply for each individual initiative. Programs are developed by private commercial or non-profit entrepreneurs/operators. Examples of the fund the program funding model: Government of New Brunswick QIFS, New Brunswick Early Learning and Child Care Trust Fund and Quebec uses this model to allocate its funding.

 

The fund the system model takes a “public good” approach to child care where government pays most of the program’s operating costs. There may be parent fees but they are usually low and geared-to-income or applied to specific age groups, or to parts of programs. In this approach, it is the government, or a democratically elected local entity, that plays the major role in planning and establishing services. Example of the fund the system funding model: In New Brunswick, kindergarten is an early learning program that is delivered through this funding model.

Mother’s Voices project participants concluded that in order to obtain quality, available and affordable child care programs that government must move away from the fund the parent towards either the fund the program or fund the system funding model. The New Brunswick Federation of Labour agrees.

 

Lack of availability of child care

As highlighted in Table 4, a minority of New Brunswick children can access regulated child care programs although a strong majority of their parents are either working or studying outside of the home. In most New Brunswick families, mothers are working. 71 % of mothers with an infant at home, 81% of mothers of children aged 3 to 5 and 86% of mothers with school aged children are working. 5

 

Table 4: Number of children in regulated child care spaces in New Brunswick by age 5

Age group / category Number of children

 

Number of child care spaces Children for whom there is a child care space (%)
Preschool (0-5) 41,000 11,965 29%
School Age (6-12) 50,000 12,591 25%
Family-based child care 935
All children 91,000 25,491 28%

 

These availability statistics hide additional inequities. Certain segments of the population face additional barriers in accessing child care. For example, new Canadians, families living in rural communities, shift-workers and francophone families.

 

Indicators of quality of child care

Research shows that it is the quality of child care programs that determines if they will have a positive or negative impact on child development. There are a number of factors that are closely associated with the quality of child care programs, including: adequate funding, staff to child ratios, auspice: who owns the facility, staff qualifications, staff wages and physical environment.

 

Adequate funding

Quality programs require a significant public investment to keep parent fees low and to allow for program stability. With adequate public funding, facilities can make a range of programs available to families. The funds need to cover the capital and most of the ongoing operational costs. This is what generally happens in countries that offer a range of programs to families.

 

As previously mentioned, child care is not financed as a public service in New Brunswick. Parent fees are the primary revenue source. Parents cannot afford the higher fees needed to pay educators a decent wage and to recruit and retain qualified staff.

 

New Brunswick invests well below the Canadian average per child care space. New Brunswick spends on average $1,519 per licensed child care space, the lowest level of public investment in all of Canada. The Canadian average is more than double that amount at $3,558. 5 To lay the foundation to transition towards a publicly funded system, we should be spending at least at the national average per space.

 

Other indicators of quality

Ratios– Fewer children per educator is linked to higher quality child care because a low staff to child ratio provides the educator with more time to meet the needs of children. The New Brunswick child to staff ratio compares favorably to other provinces.

 

Auspice – Who owns a facility makes a difference in the quality of child care received by children according to numerous Canadian and international studies. Higher quality programs are found to be operated either on a not-for-profit or public basis. This is also consistent with transitioning child care from being a private commodity to a public good. Currently in New Brunswick, most facilities are operated as a private business. Our province has a very high percentage, 63%, of commercial child care, well above the national average of 30%. 5

 

Staff training – Child care staff training requirements in New Brunswick are low. Most of the staff working with children are not required to have any training in early childhood education. This impacts the quality of care received by the children.

 

Staff wages – Based on the available comparative data (ECEC in Canada 2012), child care educators in New Brunswick are some of the poorest paid across the country, paid well below the national average. Unionization of the workforce could help in improving wages and working conditions. These low wages contribute to the high staff turnover rates and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified staff. This impacts quality of care.

 

Physical environment – A well designed space can impact children’s creativity, level of physical activity and social and cognitive development. In New Brunswick, few child care facilities are located in buildings architecturally designed to meet the needs of children. Most are not centrally located and do not interact with other community programs available to families. In an era when many community schools are threatened with closure, due to the decline in child population, it makes sense for child care programs to be centrally located in community schools.

 

Economic Impact of investing in child care

 

According to the economic research conducted both nationally and internationally, investing in child care grows the economy. Economist Robert Fairholm led a study funded by the Child Care Human Resources Sector Council (CCHRSC). It found that investing in child care provides the greatest benefit of all sectors in the Canadian economy. Child Care is a strong economic stimulus: for every dollar invested in child care, the gross domestic product (GDP) is increased by $2.30. This is one of the highest GDP impacts of all major sectors. 6

 

Most women and men are working full-time full-year although more women than men are working on a part-time basis (27% vs 12%). Of the women working on a part-time basis, 14% said it was because they were caring for children or because of other family responsibilities. Too few men gave this reason for working part-time for it to be statistically significant. 7

 

Making quality child care more affordable and available for mothers could have an impact on their labour force attachment, enabling them to transition from part-time to full-time work and/or taking positions with more responsibility and hence a better income. This has been the experience in the province of Quebec since they implemented their provincial child care program.

 

 

Where to go from here

 

The New Brunswick Liberal party committed to having 30,000 licensed spaces by 2020 and to doubling the investment into the Daycare Assistance Program which targets low income families. The New Brunswick Federation of Labour recommends that by 2020, there be 31,500 child care spaces in New Brunswick funded at the national average of investment. This would be enough child care spaces for approximately 35% of children aged 0-12. There should be a range of programs available to families. Full time care, part-time care, care in both urban and rural communities, programs that are available in French and English and 10% of spaces funded at double the cost to allow for inclusion of children with additional support needs.

 

Funding should be reallocated from the current fund the parent and fund the program funding models and move towards a fund the system model. Here is a sample of how investments could flow over the next four fiscal years:

 

Number of spaces Level of public funding
Fiscal Year 2016-2017 25,500 child care spaces $60.5 million (funded at 2/3rd national average)
Fiscal Year 2017-2018 30,000 child care spaces $82.8 (funded at 3/4th national average)
Fiscal Year 2018-2019 31,000 child care spaces $110.4 million (funded at the national average)
Fiscal Year 2019-2020 31,500 child care spaces $112.2 billion (funded at the national average)
Total Public Investment $365.9 million

 

With this sizeable level of public funding, parent fees should be capped. As public investment is ramped up over time, parents’ fees can be lowered. This level of investment should lead to a workforce that is adequately compensated and trained, with wage scales and increased training requirements implemented over time. Plans should also be made to transition, over time, commercial and non-profit operators into the system.

 

This plan will require a change in approach where we move away from isolated child care programs towards a cohesive and democratically run system. Change is never easy, especially for child care providers who have faced years of instability and precarious conditions.

 

For some, the current high-demand, low-supply market-approach serves their financial interests. For the majority of early childhood educators and facility operators, nevertheless, the current approach to child care is not working. The Situational Report on Early Learning and Child Care Services in New Brunswick, prepared by Ron Robichaud for the association Early Childhood Care and Education New Brunswick (ECCENB), clearly demonstrates the failure of child care as a business model. It depends on high parent fees and a low-wage workforce.

 

Fear of change and private interests are not valid reasons for not meeting the needs of New Brunswick children, families, communities and ensuring that early childhood educators are not subsidizing the system with their low wages. It is clear from New Brunswick’s lived experience that our current approach to child care will not grow the number of programs needed, where they are needed and at prices that parents can afford. Given the substantial public investment that will be required, it makes sense to include democratic oversight of the system and to transition current facilities into the public system. This process will take time to implement.

 

 

Summary of recommendations

 

  • Invest $365.9 million over the next four fiscal years to fund 31,500 child care spaces at the national average level of investment per child care space.
  • 3,150 spaces (10%) funded at double the level of others, to ensure inclusion of children with additional support needs.
  • Early learning and child care programs should have a democratic oversight. The responsibility for the sector has already transitioned to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Regional school board should be responsible for and funded to plan, develop, and govern the delivery of a range of early learning and child care program on their territory.
  • Transition current commercial and non-profit facilities into the public system. Facilities that prefer not to enter the system can continue operating, if they meet licensing requirements, but will not receive public funds.
  • New Brunswick should tie public funding to an imposed maximum fee that facilities can charge parents. As public funding is increased over time, the parental fee will be lowered.
  • Raise Educator’s wages and training requirements.
  • The New Brunswick government should prioritize child care in their discussions with the Federal government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endnotes

  1. Source: Government of New Brunswick Child Day Care Services Annual Statistical Profile 2013-2014.
  2. Source: 2011 Canadian National Household Survey (NHS), Statistics Canada.
  3. Parents can deduct the costs of child care from their income taxes and there is a program to assist low-income families with their child care fees. Neither of these programs were factored into this calculation.
  4. Source: Statistics Canada
  5. Source: Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada 2014, Childcare Resource and Research Unit.
  6. Source: Understanding and Addressing Workforce Shortages in ECEC Project, Child Care Human Resources Sector Council available at: http://www.ccsc-cssge.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/Projects-Pubs-Docs/2.8-WFS_LitSocioMain_Eng.pdf
  7. Source: 2014 Equity Profile – Women in New Brunswick: A Statistical Profile, Women’s Equality Branch, Government of New Brunswick.