While Panorama Recreation Centre has created additional daycare spots at Greenglade Community Centre, North Saanich is among six communities in Greater Victoria suffering from a “chronic shortage” of daycare space. (Black Press Media File)

North Saanich among six communities facing ‘chronic shortage’ of daycare spaces

Findings appear in a report that also analyzed daycare in Central Saanich and Sidney

A recent report finds a chronic shortage of daycare spaces is not only causing significant problems for local families, but also hurting the regional economy.

This finding appears in the North Saanich Child Care Inventory and Action Plan, which analyzed available daycare services in North Saanich, one of six municipalities in Greater Victoria analyzed by Queenswood Consulting Group.

“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 survey, less than half of the children from newborne to age 12 in North Saanich who need a daycare spot currently have access to the service, a fact that has left many families scrambling for care with consequences for their careers and budgets, not to mention the quality of care that their children receive. The issue has been especially pressing for families whose children attend KELSET Elementary school.

Saanich, Oak Bay and Highlands joined the three Saanich Peninsula communities in securing a grant of $150,000 from the provincial government through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBMC) to conduct the research. The six municipalities surveyed by consultants contain 45 per cent of families with children under 14 years old living in the Capital Regional District (CRD).

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The report, set to appear Monday before North Saanich council, offers both regional and local insights.

On the regional level, affordability, flexibility and improvements in the structure and substantive quality of childhood education appear as top priorities among respondents, with nearly 536 respondents across all six municipalities ranking affordability as the most important element of a future child care action plan, followed by child care with flexible hours (288), structured early child care education and programming (279) and better quality child care services (218).

Looking at North Saanich specifically, the report finds the community 297 spaces short to ensure a spot for all 494 (estimated) children aged 0 to 12 needing care. North Saanich’s total population of children aged 0 to 12 is 1,006.

“There just simply isn’t enough quality, affordable childcare, and finding somewhere open before 7:30 to 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m. is even more challenging,” the report quotes a survey respondent. “How are parents who commute 30 [minutes] plus each way supposed to make this work?”

This last comment points to the factor of geography, with 83 per cent of surveyed families across all six municipalities preferring child care close to home or their child’s elementary school.

In North Saanich, for example, the majority of child care spaces are not located in the neighbourhoods where the majority of children 12 and under live.

“We would have hoped to see the majority of child care spaces in Bazan Bay, Deep Cove, Dean Park and Lands End, especially Bazan Bay which has the most children, an elementary school, and is one of the municipality’s lower income neighbourhoods,” the report reads.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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