A few weeks ago it looked rather dire for the Berry Patch, a local child care referral service that had come under some rather severe budgetary cuts from Victoria and was in the process of preparing to close the doors.
However, a change of direction for the Provincial Government will bring an expected return of the majority of funding that was to be lost returned to the community groups, allowing them to continue on with their work across the province.
While they're not quite out of the woods yet, it would appear that the province wide backlash against the provincial government's original plan has had some effect, with the wider issue of child care in the province yet to be tackled.
Still, it's a good first step to try and get everyone back on the same page of the issue, a return of the funding needed to provide the services to those that need them most is a wise decision on the part of Victoria.
The Daily News featured the latest development as the front page lead story in Friday's paper.
BERRY PATCH FUTURE BRIGHTER AS MOST CUT FUNDING RESTORED
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Friday, March 02, 2007
The Berry Patch Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR) program appears to have been saved after the province announced it would return most of the funding it had planned to cut from the budget. On behalf of Minister of State for Child Care Linda Reid, ministry bureaucrats informed operators this week that a reduction from $14 million to $3 million for the centres announced in January would not be enacted and instead $9 million in funding would continue to be provided on an ongoing basis.
“I’m reasonably confident,” said Judy Riddell of the likelihood her organization will continue to operate for North Coast parents. “It’s a good step — I’m very happy the CCRR’s have been acknowledged as being useful and the majority of the funding has been replaced, but I think it’s just the start, it’s a piece of a larger puzzle.”
CCRR’s will enter into discussion with the ministry next week to find out exactly what their economic future will look like —there’s been no guarantees made that the centres will simply be handed 70 per cent of their budgets back — and Riddell remains hopeful other concerns about the province’s child care climate will be addressed.
“I’m still interested in the bigger picture. There’s still some other cuts that haven’t been addressed, which are the operating funding cuts and the capital construction grants that have been cut pending what the federal government comes up with,” she said.
“Those are very important to Prince Rupert. We’ve got a critical situation with lack of child care right now, and should we grow at all with this port facility, which every body’s anticipating, we’re going to be in an even worse state of affairs.
“Some of the group child care providers are telling me even now they’re getting calls from out-of-town people and they can’t place them, we haven’t been able to place people ... for three months.”
It is that reality that has some, like North Coast MLA Gary Coons, still highly concerned about the future for child care locally.
“The B.C. Liberals have been trying to mislead British Columbians with the idea that they support child care, when in fact they were pulling the rug out from under our child care system with a set of cuts to child care, including reductions in operating funds,” he said. “Did this government realize the impacts that their cuts would have, or is this just more political posturing?
“This will do nothing for the critical child care shortage in the Prince Rupert area. Parents will have to pay more, work less or send their children to unregulated centres, putting our young ones at risk.”
The NDP still remain unhappy with the $5 million in cuts CCRR’s will face and what they call a lack of a comprehensive child care strategy from the government. According to the province, the problem should be placed at the feet of the federal government for its elimination of the $455 Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Agreement. Funds were sent directly to parents instead, although they have been categorized as inadequate by some.