P.E.I. government looking to address demand for after-school care

Cindy Smith, owner of KidsFit After School, says more space will be needed to accommodate the demand for after-school care. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
Cindy Smith, owner of KidsFit After School, says more space will be needed to accommodate the demand for after-school care. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

The P.E.I. government says it is working to see how it can make after-school care more affordable and accessible for all families.

Cindy Smith, owner of KidsFit After School in Charlottetown, said it would be helpful if the province subsidized after-school care the way it does with early years centres.

She said it would free up parents' time so they can be assured to have some work-life balance, and the ability to work the hours they need and still have good quality care for their children.

"And in a lot of cases, most all these children really need socialization — healthy habits after school, spending time with others."

The P.E.I. government says it might start putting more funding into after-school care.

Pledge to examine universal after-school program

In this year's provincial budget address, it promised to explore the feasibility of a universal after-school program for students from kindergarten to Grade 6, with the aim to make after-school care more affordable and accessible for everyone.

The province hasn't provided any details on what a universal after-school program would look like or when it might become a reality. A spokesperson on Tuesday said government plans to meet with providers next month to discuss options.

Smith said the biggest issue may be creating more spaces, assuming the demand for after-school care would go up if fees go down.

But she already has a waitlist, and little room to expand.

It's also tough to find more staff to work an after-school program's part-time hours.

"We definitely need room to grow, and we need the money to hire staff," said Smith. "Other than just supplementing the parents, you may need to be supplementing the program so they can afford to expand the way they're going to need to."

Rural challenges

Some of the challenges are even greater in rural areas such as Alberton, where there's just one licensed after-school program in the community. It also has a waitlist, as do other programs in West Prince.

"We could probably use another, at least two centres up west, if not more," said Jenna Richards, supervisor of Kids West Inc.

"We need to first tackle the issue of not enough spaces for the children, before we put out the funding to pay for the spaces. Because once that funding is there, it's going to entice people to sign up."