2018 City Budget: Social Development & Children's Services

In this post, we continue our analysis of human services budgets including social development initiatives (within the Social Development, Finance & Administration budget) and children's services

Faith Leaders Pray-In

Faith in the City, Faith Leaders Pray-In Against Poverty, Toronto City Hall, October 2017

Social Development (within the Social Development, Finance & Administration (SDFA) budget) 

The following SDFA programs and services were referred to the budget process for consideration and are NOT INCLUDED in the 2018 preliminary budget:

  • Extension of Toronto for All Campaign ($100,000 gross and net; i.e. if funded it will be 100% City funded); public education campaigns to challenge discrimination/racism/oppression, promote social inclusion; in 2018, if funded, the campaign would include a focus on trans issues and Indigenous communities
  • Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy ($226,100 gross and net); for new staff to support some of the City's 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas; this work would involve promoting resident engagement, including work with resident bodies and the Toronto Seniors Forum
  • Community Space Tenancy Policy ($75,000 gross and net); if funded, this work would support incubator tenancies (short-term space use for grassroots groups)
  • Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism ($995,400 gross and net); this work would include establishing Anti-Black Racism Unit within SDFA and supporting community partnership initiatives identified in year 1 of the plan including a focus on creating culture change at the City of Toronto, investing in Black children and youth, connecting Black Torontonians to civic decision-making, and improving customer service
  • Community Services Partnership Funding increase ($450,000 gross and net) to support four new priority projects described in this previous post
  • Poverty reduction strategy initiatives including equity responsive budgeting ($105,000 gross and net) and poverty reduction evaluation ($150,000 gross and net)
  • Transit Fare Equity Program phase 1 ($4.6 million net); implement fair pass program for OW and ODSP recipients who do not receive transportation support; discount level of 33% for single adult fare and 21% for adult monthly pass for OW and ODSP recipients; the City estimates that it would issue approximately 36,000 low-income concession cards by end of 2018; roll out would start in March 2018 (assuming that PRESTO is fully rolled out by March 2018); further roll-out of the Transit Fare Equity Program would continue in 2019 and 2020

Children's Services

The Children's Services budget also includes a list of new and enhanced programs and services that have been referred to the budget process for consideration but are NOT INCLUDED in the preliminary budget. In the area of child care, $48 million in programs and services are on the unfunded list. Most of this funding has already been committed by senior orders of government. The City only needs to contribute $2.1 million to cover the costs of these child care items. The Budget Chief Gary Crawford announced after the budget launch that he and the Mayor plan to support this in the 2018 budget. 

These funds will cover:

  • An additional 825 new child care subsidies, bringing the total to child care subsidies for 29,800 spaces (cost $12 million)
  • Child care expansion at two locations (Firgrove and Ancaster) to support the addition of 30 new school-age spaces at Firgrove and 10 new toddler and 8 preschool spaces at Ancaster
  • Provincial contributions to home child care to make it more affordable
  • Increased funding for child care providers for their general operating grants
  • Special needs funding increase to increase service for children with extra support needs
  • There’s a shift in how some programs are administered, so the provincial government is providing funding to municipalities to support those increased administrative requirements

While the children’s services net budget (i.e. municipal funding component) is frozen (-0.1% over 2017 budget), the overall budget is up because of funding from senior orders of government. 

The budget includes $5.8 million to reinstate occupancy grant funding to Toronto’s 4 school boards to cover the operating costs associated with child care programs; this is a bridging strategy which means it is a temporary fix in need of a permanent fix in future years.

The provincial and federal governments have made recent commitments on child care funding which is important to the child care situation in Toronto. For example, with new provincial and federal funding the City added 2,616 new child care subsidies in 2017 and plans to add another 825 new spaces in 2018. For years, we've had little change in subsidized spaces in the system. The budget documents say that the number of subsidies has steadily increased while the wait list for child care subsidies has steadily decreased. City figures show the child care subsidy wait list at 12,508 children as of October 2017 which is down from 17,822 in January 2017. The City's progress portal has data on the waiting list and other quality of life and service measures.  

From Social Planning Toronto's Demographic Change in Toronto's Neighbourhoods report (find here): "The federal government committed $500 million for 2017-18 for a new National Early Learning and Child Care Framework for children up to age 12. In March 2017, it announced an additional investment of $7 billion over 10 years, starting in 2018-19 and resulting in up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces across Canada in the next three years. In September 2016, the provincial government committed to the creation of 100,000 new child care spaces over the next five years for children under age 5. On June 6, 2017, it announced an investment of $1.6 billion to build 45,000 of the 100,000 new spaces in 2017. Based on historical funding patterns, the provincial government’s commitment of 100,000 new spaces could result in an additional 30,000 new infant, toddler and preschool child care spaces for Toronto over the next five years. The government also released its Renewed Early Years and Child Care Policy Framework, further articulating its vision for early years and child care services in Ontario." 

This report also presents Ontario provincial government data that estimates that the population of children 0-4 in the city of Toronto will grow by 28.6% between 2016 and 2026 - a projected increase that is greater than Toronto's anticipated overall population growth at 19.2%. The expected growth in the population of infants, toddlers and preschool children underscores the importance of building the city's child care system.

The City's 10-year capital plan includes provincial and City funding of $49 million for the creation of 21 new child care centres, adding 1,110 spaces over the next 10 years. There are several new child care centres in development and construction. However, there has been considerably underspending in the capital budget for new child care centres over the past five years - only 38% of approved funds were spent over the past five years. The City budget documents indicate that the delays occurred during the planning and design phase of developments and were related to third party agreements. Children's Services is working  to change processes to have better coordination with partners including the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board and third party operators to make the development of new centres happen more quickly and efficiently. 

The City's Child Care Growth Strategy for children 0-4 aims to create child care spaces for 50% of children 0-4 by 2026 (we have spaces for 31% of these children now), improve affordability in child care fees for families (read the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' recent report on child care fees; spoiler alert: Toronto's are the most expensive in Canada), and provide good jobs in the child care sector. The map below, produced by the City of Toronto, shows the priority areas of the city where new child care spaces for infants, toddlers and preschool children are needed.

child care priority areas 

We have our work cut out for us to create the child care system that families need in Toronto. 

Interested in more information about the 2018 City budget and the City's Poverty Reduction Strategy? Check out this City briefing note released today.

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