Sidney needs 233 new spaces to meet the current demand for daycare, according to a new report.
The finding appears in the Sidney Child Care Inventory and Action Plan appearing Monday before council.
Sidney, along with Central Saanich, North Saanich and three other communities in Greater Victoria, had hired Queenswood Consulting Group to survey available childcare services the six communities accounting for 45 per cent of families with children under 12 years old living in the Capital Regional District (CRD). The communities had had earlier secured a $150,000 grant from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) through the provincial government to catalogue any gaps with an eye toward develop an action plan.
The report confirms what many parents in the area likely already know: it is difficult to find affordable childcare that is flexible and of high quality, with broader consequences.
“A chronic shortage of daycare is causing significant problems for families with young children – impacting the quality of life, family budgets, and our municipal economies,” it reads.
According to the report, available spaces meet 52 per cent of current demand, the highest figure for the surveyed communities.
The respective figures for North Saanich and Central Saanich are 44 per cent and 35 per cent. Researchers calculated the estimated child care need by subtracting the number of licensed spaces and the number of children aged 0 to 12 from the global number of children aged 0 to 12 living in the chosen communities. By way of background, 12 per cent of households (700) in Sidney reported having children under 141 living at home with them. The respective figures for North Saanich and Central Saanich are 16 per cent and 19 per cent.
This said, Sidney staff point out that Sidney’s 298 full-time licensed spaces translate into an availability ratio of 16 licensed child care spaces available for every 100 children aged 0 to 12. “Sidney’s availability ratio … is well below the (provincial) average of 37 licensed child care spaces available for every 100 children 0 to 12,” reads a Sidney staff report.
That report also finds that 34 per cent of surveyed families with child care reported that the search for care took seven months or longer. Another 34 per cent found care within one month of needing it, while the remaining 32 per cent of surveyed families reported that the search took two to six months.
The consultants’ report also identified three barriers in expanding childcare spaces throughout the study area: finding and retaining qualified staff; access to buildings or land suitable for child care facilities; and funding to support child care development and operation.
The consultants’ report several recommendations to municipal bylaws and policies to improve the local situation. The report also recommends that the municipality explores options to support the construction of new child care facilities whenever municipally owned land comes up for redevelopment.
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