McGuinty Government Expands Best Start Plan for Children

Archived Release

McGuinty Government Expands Best Start Plan for Children

Province Creates Approximately 25,000 New Child Care Spaces Easing The Financial Burden On Municipalities TORONTO, July 28 - The McGuinty government is improving access to high quality, convenient child care for thousands of families by delivering an unprecedented investment in early child development while relieving municipalities of their share of the cost of operating new child care spaces, Children and Youth Services Minister Mary Anne Chambers announced today. "Our government's Best Start Plan will give Ontario's children the best possible start in life and help parents balance the demands of work and family," said Chambers. "We are investing new funds dedicated to child care to provide more licensed spaces and subsidies." As part of a recent agreement with the federal government, the province is delivering approximately $1.1 billion in federal funds over the next three years, beginning this year, to implement the Best Start Plan. The province is also easing a major cost pressure on municipalities by waiving municipal cost-sharing on the new child care funding beginning in 2005-06 through 2009-10. This move will save municipalities more than $208 million over the next three years. The $1.1 billion investment will expand the number of licensed child care spaces by approximately 25,000 by the end of 2007-08, increase access to subsidies, attract and retain qualified child care workers and develop other early learning and child care supports. This is in addition to the more than 4,000 new subsidized child care spaces the province created in 2004-05. "This is the largest investment in child care and early child development in Ontario's history. It reflects a new commitment to Ontario's young people and is consistent with our government's priorities of health, education and economic prosperity," said Chambers during a visit to Rose Avenue Day Care Centre in Toronto. "This is good news for Ontario municipalities and Ontario taxpayers," said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing John Gerretsen. "Municipalities can now afford to expand the number of child care spaces and provide more subsidies for more families while continuing to meet the needs of their citizens." "The decision to waive municipal contributions related to the new child care funding is an important departure from the normal provincial - municipal cost share arrangement. Maximizing Best Start and protecting municipal government from new costs are goals that are important to our communities," said Roger Anderson, President of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. "One of the most effective investments we can make for this city's future is to ensure that young Torontonians have early access to education and quality child care. We welcome this announcement, as it helps to create a legacy that will improve our city for an entire generation," said Toronto Mayor David Miller. Ontario's Best Start Plan, when fully implemented, will include: - A massive expansion of child care, predominantly in Ontario's publicly funded schools - More child care subsidies so that more families can access these child care spaces - Best Start neighbourhood early learning and care hubs that provide one-stop services for families - Universal newborn screening and ongoing screening and services to identify needs and provide vital developmental supports - A comprehensive 18 month well-baby checkup. "By rebuilding the link between quality child care, education, public health and parenting programs, we are helping parents help their children be successful in school and later in life," said Chambers. "This is an investment that keeps growing as our children grow. How we choose to support them now will determine the quality of their lives and the lives of all Ontarians in the future." Disponible en français www.children.gov.on.ca Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- ONTARIO'S BEST START PLAN TO EXPAND EARLY LEARNING AND CHILD CARE The McGuinty government's Best Start Plan involves a massive expansion of quality and affordable child care and investments in children's healthy early development - all in a convenient and easily accessible location for parents. Across Ontario, community partners - school boards, public health units, child care and children's services providers and municipalities - are working with the province to develop and implement plans that will achieve the Best Start vision in ways that make sense to their local communities. With an infusion of approximately $1.1 billion in new federal funding over the next three years, municipalities across the province are making plans to implement the Best Start Plan in their communities in ways that meet local needs and make sense for families. Helping Cities - Ontario is now extending relief from cost sharing to municipalities for the new federal funds. Municipalities will not have to cost share their usual 20 per cent of program costs and 50 per cent of administration costs on the new federal funding from 2005-06 onwards for the expansion of early learning and child care; this relief from cost sharing applies to both the new funding from the 2005 Canada-Ontario Early Learning and Child Care Agreement-in-Principle and from the existing 2003 Multilateral Framework on Early Learning and Child Care, for the duration of these two agreements. This move will save municipalities more than $208 million over the next three years, beginning in 2005-06. - Municipal cost sharing will continue for other current child care funding. The province will continue to pay for capital expansion for not-for-profit child care operators only. - Municipalities and community partners will help plan and implement Best Start. In implementing the Best Start Plan, municipalities and community partners will focus on: - Rapid expansion of early learning and child care spaces and subsidies, with priority on children in junior and senior kindergarten for non-school hours. - Gradual expansion of early learning and child care spaces and subsidies for younger children. - Planning for community hubs (predominantly in Ontario's publicly funded schools) that will bring together screening, assessment and treatment, child care and parenting programs, with direct links to other children's services, such as mental health services and speech and language resources. - These Best Start neighbourhood hubs will be centrally located wherever possible, and services, hours and programming will be convenient for families. Best Start Progress Report More Quality, Convenient, Affordable Early Learning and Child Care Programs - About 25,000 new licensed child care spaces will be created across the province by the end of 2007-08. There were 124,442 licensed child care spaces for children up to and including age five as of March 31, 2004. - More than 4,000 new subsidized child care spaces were created by the province in 2004-05. - The province is designing a new model for determining eligibility for child care subsidies based on income, which will make child care more affordable for more families. - New access to child care subsidies for more parents, due to the elimination of restrictions on subsidies for parents with RRSPs and RESPs as of November 2004. - To support expansion of Ontario's licensed child care system, and to attract and retain skilled early childhood education professionals, the province has earmarked about $106 million of the new federal child care funding specifically towards wage improvements for child care workers provincewide over three years. - Plans are underway for a proposed new College of Early Childhood Educators to establish high professional standards for quality child care and early learning programs. - An Expert Panel on Quality and Human Resources, looking at recruitment and retention of qualified early childhood educators and ways to establish high quality licensed and informal child care, will report in fall 2006. - An Expert Panel on an Early Learning Program, developing first a learning program for preschool children that can link to junior and senior kindergarten learning programs, and ultimately a single integrated learning program for children in preschool, junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten. This panel will report in December 2006. Investments in Early Healthy Development - Strengthening early screening for the estimated 130,000 children born every year in Ontario to identify potential issues, needs and risks. - First screening of consenting mothers and their newborns at the hospital is followed by a phone call within 48 hours of discharge from the hospital. - Ongoing support for those who need extra help, including home visits and referrals to other support programs in their community. - Strengthening hearing, speech and language programs to identify, treat and support children with a communication disorder. Early identification is crucial for helping children develop strong language and literacy skills. - Checkups for all children at 18 months, including vision screening. The 18 Month Well-Baby Expert Panel is developing strategies for a provincewide developmental assessment for 18-month-old children in Ontario. This panel will report in October 2005. Showing the Way - The District of Timiskaming in northeastern Ontario, the rural areas of Lambton and Kent, and Hamilton's east end are implementing the full Best Start vision at an accelerated pace. - These communities are showing the way in identifying community hubs and planning the full range of early learning and child care programs that the local hubs will offer. - All three have a solid network of community agencies that are well-placed for rapid expansion of Best Start. Disponible en français www.children.gov.on.caFor further information: James Ip, Minister's Office, (416) 212-7157; Paul Doig, Ministry of Children and Youth Services, (416) 325-5187