East Scarborough parents more likely to lose childcare subsidies

East Scarborough parents may be among the first to lose their child care subsidies if Toronto is forced to cut subsidy funds received from the province, warn child care advocates.

City statistics currently show Wards 42, 43, and 44 are all being “overcompensated” now, with more than 40 per cent of Ward 43 children living under the poverty level — one of the highest in the city.

But if the funds were to be cut, these so-called overcompensated wards may be the first to lose their subsidies, according to Jane Mercer, executive coordinator of the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care.

“It’s a big problem,” said Mercer. “Either the city refuses to guarantee subsidies to all who apply, or cuts off those who already have them. Unless the provincial government doesn’t come up with more money this may happen.”

Toronto has more than 14,000 children on the waiting list for subsidies, of which nearly 1,300 are from Wards 42, 43 and 44. Six thousand spaces are likely to be cut in Toronto over the next several months, according to child care advocates.

City officials however are playing down the possibility.

“There is no plan for any cutting whatsoever,” Peter Varmuza said, assistant director of Child Services. “The new budget calls for no service cuts anywhere and the children need the money.”

However, he would not deny that cuts may occur.

The city normally contributes about 20 per cent on the funds, but the province has been completely responsible for funding relatively new spaces.

Jennie Robinson, executive director of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC), said much depends upon how the subsidized child care spaces are normally distributed.

“Everyone is guaranteed subsidies if they make it through the application process,” Robinson said. “But if this were to happen, the cities would have to look at how they usually divide the money across regions to see who will get how much.”

Subsidies are normally divided amongst communities based on a ward equity program. Based on complex city service plans, it is determined how many spaces a ward receives through what is referred to as a target level. The number of children living underneath the poverty line in a ward is vital to determining how many spaces a ward will receive. If more children in a ward are below this line; the ward will get more spaces.

Earlier this month, the head of Toronto’s daycare service said that 22,000 child-care spaces could disappear in the province, including up to 6,000 subsidized spots in Toronto. City officials say if Ontario doesn’t put up $63.5 million to replace a federal commitment ending in the next fiscal year, municipalities will have to start cutting subsidized spaces this fall.

Jane Mercer, executive coordinator of the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care, said the “overcompensation” of areas like Wards 42, 43 and 44 is grossly blown up.

“With 14,000 people on the waiting list for subsidies, clearly Toronto is being underserved and the current number of 24,000 spaces is not enough,” said Mercer.