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Committee OKs plan to close city-owned day care centre

It will also adjust the rate of subsidies, increasing the amount for caring for infants and younger children, whose care is more challenging and time consuming.
If approved by city council, Greater Sudbury will take the 120 subsidized day care spaces at its city-owned facility and move them to non-profit centres. The move is aimed at saving money, since costs are more than double at the Junior Citizens Day Care compared to other facilities. File photo.
It will also adjust the rate of subsidies, increasing the amount for caring for infants and younger children, whose care is more challenging and time consuming. The department has spent the last year reviewing the system to find ways to adjust to the cuts while maintaining service to families that need it most.

As a result, some underused spaces will be consolidated to ensure they're getting the most for their money, while the 120 spaces at the city-owned facility, Junior Citizens Day Care, will be moved to the non-profit sector.

When a similar move was considered a year ago, parents and members of CUPE Local 4705 sprang into action to save Junior Citizens, where the 21 staff earn considerably higher wages than workers at non-profit day care centres.

The city's day care offers several things not offered elsewhere, in particular, after-hours services for families who work night and evening shifts. But expenses per child are more than double at Junior Citizens Day Care, where it costs $94 a day to take care of each child, compare to $43 in other facilities.

That means it consumes a much larger share of dollars available for the system, making it difficult to share resources fairly.

“Our challenge was to review what child care looked like, and how we were going to move forward,” said Tracy Saarikoski, of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. “It was about what's best for children and families … They're difficult recommendations; they were difficult conversations.”

The report recommends issuing an expression of interest tender to see if non-profit day care centres would be interested in offering similar service as the Junior Citizens Day Care. Staff at the centre, who are city employees, would be able to bump some staff in other departments, or move into vacancies over time.

Streamlining existing spaces would eliminate about 190 spots, or about four per cent of the total. While the changes would still mean a waiting list of 519 for child care subsidies in Greater Sudbury in 2016, the alternative would lead to a waiting list of 729. And the overall loss of spaces in the system would be 418, compared with 605.

“We would probably get more than 200 spaces if Junior Citizens Day Care was run by another provider,” Henderson added.

Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann supported the proposal, saying she and the rest of the committee were in a much better position to decide than they were a year ago. For example, last year they didn't know where a non-profit day care would be interested in providing the sort of service that the city-owned centre provides. But she has contacted three herself.

“All three of them were interested in offering the extended hours,” Landry-Altmann said.

But Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume said by offering spaces at a city facility, workers are able to make a good living. He described moving the spaces to somewhere workers will be paid less as “the race to the bottom.

“We know in that field, the workers are not paid that well,” Berthiaume said. “What we're doing is contracting out to the private sector. I find it very difficult to support this.”

But Saarikoski said they're talking with non-profits about taking over the Junior Citizens spaces, not for-profit day cares. While everyone in the sector deserves higher wages, she said their priority was to determine how they can help families in Sudbury who need the most help getting quality care for their children.

“So it's not going to go to the private sector,” she said. “It's going to the non-profit sector.”

The plan was approved easily, but will have to be ratified by city council before it's official.

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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