Helping schools make childcare more affordable for families

The CWELCC subsidy program for childcare providers in Canada

Introduced in 2021, the CWELCC subsidy program has been a revelation. Initiated and funded by the federal government, this Canada-wide enterprise helps defray the costs of childcare by providing significant financial support to organizations offering childcare, including daycares, preschools, kindergartens, and elementary schools.

What is the CWELCC subsidy program and what are its aims?

The Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) program is a five-year initiative that reduces the cost of childcare for families by an average of $10 per day by 2026. By offering families significant financial relief, childcare becomes more affordable for many households. 

The primary aims of the CWELCC program are to promote the accessibility, affordability, and inclusivity of childcare. In short, it makes childcare available to more families and families with a wider range of financial backgrounds and resources.

How does the CWELCC program work?

To be eligible for the CWELCC subsidy, your child needs to be under six and enrolled in a childcare program participating in CWELCC. Here are the specifics of how this works in practice:

  1. If your child turns six between January 1 and June 30 and is enrolled in a CWELCC participating nursery, preschool, or kindergarten, they’re eligible for a fee reduction until June 30.
  2. If your child turns six years of age after June 30 and is enrolled in a CWELCC participating nursery, preschool, or kindergarten, they’re eligible for a fee reduction until the end of the month in which they turn six.
  3. If your child is enrolled in a CWELCC participating school-age program and turns six, they’re eligible until the end of the month they turn six.

To learn more about the CWELCC program, click here.

How does this benefit families?

The benefits of the CWELCC program for families are obvious and considerable. Childcare becomes more affordable and financially viable. By receiving subsidies that reduce the cost of childcare, it makes it more likely parents can enrol their kids.

Overall, this means more families will be able to afford childcare including many who previously couldn’t. This will give many parents more flexibility in their work—in their ability to pursue, schedule, and take on work opportunities. For instance, they may be able to work more hours at different times of the day knowing they don’t have to take care of their kids or make special arrangements to have someone else take care of them.

Also, knowing that your child is well taken care of in a licensed childcare, whether in a nursery, preschool, or kindergarten setting, can bring peace of mind. Similarly, it can help relieve the stress associated with having to organize supervision and care for your child on an ongoing basis, whether this is daily, weekly, or monthly.

How does this benefit schools offering childcare?

Schools offering childcare will now be able to offer it at a more affordable rate. This means it will be accessible to more families and that families with a wider range of socio-economic profiles can enrol. 

By making childcare more affordable, the CWELCC program can help schools increase their enrolment numbers. For independent and private schools especially, including Montessori schools, families are more likely to pursue admission to a school if they know they’ll receive significant financial relief for childcare at the preschool and kindergarten levels. 

What’s more, private schools aim to have a diverse student body and the CWELCC program can help them achieve this. The benefits of diversity are myriad and well-documented: for instance, it promotes inclusivity, exposure to people from different backgrounds, learning about new cultures and traditions, and expanding one’s horizons. So any initiative, such as the CWELCC program, that promotes diversity is an enormous windfall for schools.

Should all schools offering childcare enrol in the CWELCC program?

In a word, no. And in fact, some schools have chosen not to opt into the CWELCC program. Why? 

The program is still in its infancy and it’s far from perfect. One concern is that the terms of the agreement are only guaranteed until 2023. Another is that funding is not tied to the rate of inflation. "Right now in the agreement, they're only indexing at 2.75 percent,” says Amanda Stanton, executive director of Kids Connect, a licensed childcare provider in Toronto. “So we want to ensure that the new agreement speaks to inflation and how to help centres with … skyrocketing costs.”

Many schools opting out of CWELCC believe it just doesn’t offer enough financial certainty. Some have expressed the concern that entering into the agreement as it stands now may limit their flexibility and financial resources in the future. For instance, if they aren’t given enough funding from the government, this may limit how much they can spend on learning materials and how much they can pay staff, which could potentially jeopardize the quality of their programming.

So, while the CWELCC subsidy program significantly benefits families and many schools offering childcare, it’s not the right fit for all schools. Bear this in mind when choosing a school for your young child: You should consider both schools that offer the CWELCC subsidy as well as those that don’t.

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