Three Okanagan cities will soon see more licensed child care spaces thanks to an investment from the Government of British Columbia Ministry of Education and Child Care.
An additional 240 more licensed child care spaces are expected across Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon.
The province made the announcement Thursday morning (April 21), with Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu saying it will help parents save money while giving their kids a great start.
“These new spaces will provide a dependable and affordable service to Okanagan parents, so they can work on their career or advance their education, supporting our local economy and helping address the labour shortage,” said Sandhu.
These spaces are made possible by provincial funding with a federal contribution.
“Child care spaces at the Vernon campus will make a significant impact on the lives of our students and support including access to education for our learners,” said Okanagan College president Neil Fassina.
Since ChildCareBC launched in July of 2018, 1,166 new child care locations have opened in the Okanagan. Across the province in that time, $2.7 billion has been invested, which has helped open over 26,000 new locations through the New Spaces Fund.
Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care stated that for years, parents in B.C. were left with a patchwork system where child care was treated as a luxury.
“As we enter the fifth year of our 10-year ChildCareBC plan, we are making significant progress to reverse this. We’ve been working to turn the corner by building new spaces, lowering fees and training the skilled professionals needed to offer quality child care as a core service available to every family that wants it at a price they can afford.”
When ChildCareBC was launched, one of the most important strategies was recruiting for all the new child care centres. Since its launch, 1,150 early childhood education (ECE) spaces in classes have been added, doubling the number since 2018. Also in that time, more than 10,000 bursaries have been given out to support almost 6,000 students and ECE compensation has increased by $4 per hour.
There will be 86 of the 240 spaces located at the Kelowna Airport YMCA Child Care, spanning all ages.
In Vernon, 44 new spaces will be opened at Okanagan College for students to start their education.
The Interior Health Authority will be adding 76 spaces on their hospital grounds, 67 to the broad of Education School District, and 34 to Columbia Elementary School.
The budget for 2022 increased by a $3.9 million investment over the next three years to add 390 more ECE spaces at post-secondary institutes across the province. Over 2022-23, the New Spaces Fund is expanding the number of licensed child care services with $30 million.
To also make these services more affordable for parents and guardians, fee reductions were approved in 2021-22 for more than 68,000 people over 3,600 child care facilities through the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative.
The intake for the New Spaces Fund application for 2022-23 will open in the spring or the summer.