City of Powell River and qathet Regional District have jointly qualified for $50,000 from the provincial government to research child care needs in the region.
The money will be used to create an inventory of existing child care spaces, identify how many spaces are needed now and how many will be needed over the coming years, as well as the type of child care that is needed.
City director of parks, recreation and culture Ray Boogaards said it is important to come up with a region-wide child care planning process, rather than just the city doing it. He said the community partnership looking into child care needs in this region goes beyond the city and the regional district.
“We’ve been sitting at the table with Vancouver Coastal Health, School District 47 and Vancouver Island University, plus other people interested in child care,” said Boogaards. “We felt with the available funding, we had to have a proper study completed before we go for any capital dollars.
“If you apply for further grants, they want to see where your backup information is; they want us to prove to them there are child care spaces required,” he added. “This study will give us that information. It will also tell us where we need to put those child care spaces.”
The city is not in the business of providing child care, but the grants were awarded to local governments, so the city and regional district worked with the other interested partners to launch the project.
A request for proposals for a consultant will soon be drafted and the consultant will conduct an extensive study throughout the region and create an action plan.
The child care study will address more than the short-term needs in the region.
“This will give us a long-term vision for child care spaces,” said Boogaards. “How are we going to address the needs of two working parents, or single parents who are going to need some kind of child care?”
The study will also address people who cannot afford child care, which could indicate a significant demand in the region because of the economic conditions here.
“When you look at statistics, our average incomes are not that high,” said Boogaards. “We have a lot of people living in poverty. Day care spaces are extremely important and that’s why the committee got together in the first place.”
The committee behind the grant application has experts who are connected in the community, and they believe there is a need here because there are people waiting to get on child care lists.
It is hoped the study can be wrapped up in September or October this year. Boogaards said it is important to be ready for the next funding windows.
During the study period, an extensive public consultation will take place, so there will be opportunity for input into the process.
Boogaards said through the process, those behind the creation of an action plan want to ensure all parents do not have to concern themselves with child minding.