With the federal announcement Jan. 21 that Nunavut, like other provinces and territories, has also reached an agreement toward $10 per day childcare by March 2024, comes high hopes for parents that things might get a little easier.

This announcement is huge if you are a parent who has lucked into one of the roughly 1,200 – as of March 2020 – existing licensed childcare spaces in the territory, according to a report by the Atkinson Centre for Society and Child Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto.

The Early Childhood Education Report studied early learning and childcare initiatives up to March 31, 2020. According to the report, the average daily fees for childcare are $48.99 for full-time infants; $26.94 for part-time infants; full-time preschoolers meant payments of $47.86; and part-time preschoolers cost $22.53. The average after-school program fees are $22.50 per day. This adds up to a lot in any family’s budget.

Fees for licensed childcare in Nunavut will be cut in half, on average, by the end of this year, and it’s estimated that parents with children up to age six in licensed childcare centres in Iqaluit could save up to $14,000 per year on those fees.

The support of family members can ease some of the difficulty faced by young parents, especially when returning to school or work if daycare has proven unaffordable or hard to find. Subsidies are also available through the regional offices of the Department of Family Services for those who need the support and qualify.

Amounts are based on a needs test, taking into account family size, housing expenses and cost of the program. The report stated that 34 families received a subsidy in 2019-2020 and an additional 50 applicants received funding through the Young Parents Stay Learning Program, which subsidizes daycare costs for parents under age 18 who are working toward their high school diploma.

The recent agreement with Ottawa also included the creation of 238 new childcare spaces in Nunavut among licensed, not-for-profit and family-based childcare providers by March 2026. It doesn’t specify how those spaces will be distributed among communities, but it does leave plenty of time to figure out how and where to spend the $66 million in federal funding over five years promised to the cause.

Communities that don’t have buildings to host daycares should consult with the Government of Nunavut, say the feds, as the funding from the Government of Canada includes support for existing infrastructure, including schools and community centres.

The agreement will also bring higher wages for early childcare workers. That will be achieved through the creation of a wage grid and the Government of Nunavut is proposing to invest up to 25 per cent of the $66 million to raise pay for childcare staff.

This is a wise choice, as the Early Childhood Education Report noted that daycare workers are currently earning a shocking 44 per cent of the salary of teachers in the territory, an average of $50,000 per year to teachers’ $113,000.

We’ve seen how it goes when essential workers are given a paltry sum and asked to carry on providing services while unable to then pay their own bills.

They leave, or stop working.

Childcare shouldn’t have to be a struggle. The plans for creation of these spaces, training, and increased wages are all wonderful news, and we’re hopeful they stay on track.

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