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Penticton council taking steps to address city's child care crisis

Penticton Western News - 1/21/2021

Penticton city council has taken a step towards improving local child care.

Councillors endorsed a plan in yesterday's (Jan. 19) meeting identifying opportunities the city and its partners can take to increase the number of childcare spaces available, while also increasing the affordability of childcare.

Specific actions the city plans on taking to address the lack of child care include: coordinating information sessions with Interior Health, the Penticton Fire Department and city departments to host workshops to help interested parties open a child care centre; advocating to other orders of government the need to reduce the cost of child care; and working with the school district and Okanagan College to explore training programs for prospective early childhood educators.

Before presenting the action plan to council, city staff worked with the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia to conduct various feedback opportunities including surveys, interviews, workshops and one-to-one engagements with families, parents, childcare providers and community partners.

The plan endorsed by council was the result of approximately 500 individuals participating in these conversations.

Of the families who took part in the survey, 83 per cent indicated that it's hard to find child care in Penticton. 81 per cent of the participating childcare centres indicated they have a wait-list of at least six months.

Businesses also indicated that the lack of childcare is hampering their growth and ability to recruit and retain new employees.

Mayor John Vassilaki recognized that city still has a long way to go to solve the child care problem, but hopes progress is ahead.

"I'd like to thank everyone who participated their ideas and time to make this action plan possible," said Vassilaki. "We still have a way to go as a community before the challenges that parents face around child care are successfully solved, but thanks to the development of this plan and the actions it sets out for the city and its partners to complete, I hope to start seeing progress very soon in terms of more available space and more affordability."