Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tightening Their Belts

It appears that the Alberta govt is trying to tighten their belts a bit by trying to cut down on wasteful spending in some social programs, and try to cut down on those that abuse the system. I am glad to see it, because if we are going to be forced to pay for these programs with our tax dollars, something should be done to make sure it's going to the right places. However, as usual, how they go about it turns into a train wreck for the WRONG people!

For example, at my work (childcare), there was a very sudden change to how parents apply for subsidy back in Sept. Just WHAM, the new policies were put into place but that left the daycare operators and staff that work on the files struggling. One policy was actually about privacy - in the past, a daycare operator could phone down to the subsidy office and ask if a parent had brought in their forms, and then ask what amount they were approved for. That worked well because then the owner knew immediately how much to charge the parent 'after subsidy'. But suddenly, we were not allowed to do that anymore. We had to get parents to sign a release form allowing us to ask about their subsidy and then fax that in. And even then we did not get to know more details such as how long subsidy was approved for. Some people get it for one month, some get it for a year. It depends on their circumstances but suddenly centers were not allowed to know that info. That caused a lot of financial loss for centers across Alberta because a parent might have had their child in care for 3 months, only for us to find out they only got subsidy for ONE month - so we would give them a bill for the rest and guess what happens when you do that? The parent takes off and leaves you with 2 months of caring for their child and not getting paid for it. It's a serious enough problem that district associations across the province have been holding special meetings about how to deal with this. Apparently new application forms are due out by April where the parent will check off a little box allowing centers to get the relevant info again --- but come on! 7 months to wait? Maybe they should have had those applications ready or a transition plan in place instead of slamming down the gavel and leaving centers not even wanting to take on subsidized children! How fair is that to low income families who are looking for spaces but centers are pretending they are FULL in order to avoid the hassle with the govt rules?

Another change was that the subsidy office used to send us a letter if a parent was totally denied subsidy - but they don't do that anymore either. So we get to look after a kid for a month or two and not get paid yet again. It's been very difficult for every center I know of, large or small, to navigate this change. Who sits and makes up these plans?? Do they even have any experience with daycare programs? It's hard enough we have to wait 6 weeks for every dollar of subsidy for every child, when other parents have to pay on the first day of the month. The govt will not pay the subsidy until the end of the month report showing the kid used at least 100 hours, and then 2 weeks later the owner finally gets the money. Meanwhile she has already had to pay her staff at month end and hope and pray the subsidy money goes in. This system is just not working properly. End of story.

The other new policy is that parents have to report line 150 from their last income tax return to apply. Previously, they would also look at your last few months' pay stubs but now it's income tax return only. I can understand that, they probably discovered that some parents have 2 or 3 jobs but only bring in the stubs from one, making it look like they earn less. Those are the System Abusers. But I was wondering about someone who might have a situation change since their last IT Return..... becoming a single parent, losing hours at work, changing jobs, etc. None of that will be reflected on the last return. Okay so here is the new set up - the parent will be DENIED. Then they have to file an appeal. Then they have to reapply (showing their pay stubs, explaining change of situation, etc). Fine and dandy - but where is their child during all of these paperwork processes? Oh that's right - they are at MY center and I am not getting paid one red cent while waiting for all of this mess to be sorted out. My boss is gearing her line of credit up in preparation for having to pay her staff from that instead of parent fees, since she isn't getting any. Oh joy! Now try to understand why some centers in Alberta are already refusing to take subsidized children, they are taking a risk but to them it's financially worth it. They just can't take it anymore, waiting forever for the money to come from the govt is just not a financially sustainable action for centers to take.

Another change I know of is in a slightly different field, for my friend that works with special needs children and adults. In the past, they had to file their hours on the 22nd of each month, and then put in the hours they were supposed to have in that final week in order to get paid on the last day of the month. So the last few hours were a 'guess'. Just suddenly with no warning, that was changed in January. My friend went to pick up her cheque and found it was lower than expected. That's when she discovered that the policy was changed that month - the only hours she got paid for were up to the 22nd. Okay - I understand that there were probably problems with people getting pre-paid for some hours and then they ended up not having to work those afterall... but to suddenly slam this policy into place with no warning left a lot of people struggling to pay their bills. My friend uses her wages to pay her rent, for example. So here she was SHORT for Feb rent with no warning. How is that helping people?

When these systems are put into place, people rely on them. When the govt changes something, they use the excuse that they are streamlining, that it's tax payer dollars they are ensuring are put to good use. Yeah I get that - but couldn't they give people some warning about changes? It drives me crazy. I get paid partially by tax payer dollars because of subsidy. My friend gets paid almost entirely by tax payer dollars for working with special needs kids. That is our livelihood but the govt decided to mess with that. Meanwhile there will still be people scamming the system, but people who are NOT scamming are the ones getting the shaft.

You have to find a childcare space for your child before applying for subsidy, you can't just go and find out if you can get it, you have to do the space FIRST. So if you are denied, the center is the one who gets the big shaft up the rearend with parents leaving cos they can't afford it. We have had so many people put into the Small Claims system, only to find out we have no hope in getting the money because the parents are in financial hardship or owe to too many other creditors. If it wasnt a Human Rights violation, we would entirely STOP taking subsidized children. But we could get in trouble for that, so we have to carry on and take what comes. Oh boy, govt programs are SO efficient and SO fun! Let's have some MORE of them!

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I just wanted to add my personal opinion about the new 'privacy' issue surrounding subsidy. These people are receiving a govt grant, basically. It's not their money, it's tax payer's money. Why should it be a privacy concern that the owner of the place they chose to put their child in wants to know how much money she is going to get paid? Subsidy does not pay the entire daycare fee, so she needs to know what portion the parent will be responsible for. She can't do that without knowing how much the parent is getting. Easy peasy, isn't it? But why is it a PRIVACY issue? It's not the parent's money. The forms never told us how much the parent earns, how much their income tax return showed, it doesn't tell us ANYTHING apart from how much the govt will be sending THE CENTER for the child, and for how long. Why the hell is that a privacy issue for THE PARENT? The govt does not send the money to the parent, and then have the parent cut us a cheque - the money is deposited directly into the DAYCARE account. So where exactly is this privacy issue? What human rights lawyer or group decided this was a personal privacy issue? I don't get that at all!

If I go to buy a car tomorrow, I feel like telling the dealership that they are not allowed to check my credit record because it's a PRIVACY issue. Why should they know what my credit score is? I'm going to sign forms that say I will pay them back for the car, so why do they need to know what my personal banking and credit history details are? Of course I am joking here, but my point is, to BUY something I will have to PAY BACK, someone can check my credit history. But to GET money that is not even mine and I DO NOT HAVE TO pay back, they cannot be privvy to my personal info. That makes absolutely NO sense to me at all.

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For a little Math Bonus, my center is small. Only 3 full time workers and 1 part time (Me lol). We have 21 spaces but are short 6 right now (almost every center I know of here has spaces empty for the first time in DECADES). Anyway the total amount of subsidy we have to wait on every month is over $6000. That is all our wages added together. right now we have 10 subsidized children so about 75% of our current filled spaces. That is posing such a financial hardship, we don't know what we are going to do. One of the largest centers here just cut their staff wages back to minimum wage, they are so far in the hole and I hear a lot of rumors that they may have to close down. I don't know about that, it's just a rumor, but I do know about the staff wages. This system is just not sustainable. It gets worse and worse. How can my private center operate while sitting around waiting for the subsidy money to go in? The staff needs to get paid, the owner needs to pay regular bills, buy food and supplies, but the more subsidized children you end up with, the harder it is to navigate. A few years ago when my boss called to complain, the agent in Edmonton told her that she should have another plan in place for paying her staff. Another plan? What would that be? Parents come to the center and ask us to look after their kids, and we are supposed to get paid. that is the only possible income unless we start fund raisers to pay STAFF and put a tip jar by the front door lol. But he even asked her if she had a second job. WHAT? To pay her staff? I was there that day and listened to her side of the conversation, and her reaction to that was to yell and throw the phone, and then call that guy's superiors. It was ridiculous. Now it's even worse.

I could blather on about this even longer, but I just got a call that I have to rush down to the Police Station tout-suite because my last police check has expired (need a new one every 3 years) and my center cannot get their license renewed until I get that done. So instead of going into work, I'm popping down to fill out the form, fork over my $53, and then go back in a day or two to pick it up. Then we can re-file for our license. Gotta git'er done because our license runs out at the end of this month and we would be up poo creek without a ladder.

2 comments:

  1. The Civil Service.. isn't it great.

    Recalling your headaches with Rev. Can., just another example of bureaucracy and it's inherent stupidity.

    And there are so many in society who want to EXPAND the government involvement.

    Unfortunately, Kez, the asnwer may well be to require payment in advance each month. And if you don't get paid, well, I guess I'd prefer to type in my blog than to do work for people who perhaps won't pay me.

    I stopped doing any legal aid work some time ago, for the exact sorts of reasons you are telling us about.

    And I had to hold my tongue when I read this:

    "If it wasnt a Human Rights violation, we would entirely STOP taking subsidized children."

    Really?

    So, yet another bureaucratic collection of dumb asses imposing others rights ahead of yours?

    It may be that the daycares as a whole need to suddenly refuse any subsidized cases, period, to force the issue of assuring proper treatment of the profession. Otherwise, the government will just keep taking advantage of you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We do require payment in advance, but that only happens for the non-subsidized parents. We cannot take the full fee from subsidized parents because the money goes directly to us at a later date, but theoretically we could do that, but the parents would not be reimbursed for 6 weeks and chances are, since they can't seem to afford the daycare fee in the first place, they won't be able to wait 6 weeks for it either.

    It's a confusing system. Everyone else has to pay us on the first of the month, but the govt will not dole out the money to us until we have proven that the child attended at least 100 hours. We are not allowed to submit forms for Feb 2010, for example, until after closing time on Feb 28. That's why so many centers are trying to sneak around it by not accepting subsidized children. Basically they pretend they are full, but do offer their spaces to those who say 'No, I will not be subsidized'.

    We have been told that while Children's Services cannot force us to take these kids, we are supposedly private centers after all, there is no guarantee someone could not complain to the Better Business Bureau about unfair practice, or to the Human Rights Commission for discrimination against low income families.

    We don't want to discriminate, that's not what it's about. It's about the fact that we take on these families but get nothing but headaches and scraping together cash to pay staff until the 'govt' puts the money in our bank accounts. It's frustrating.

    Right now, subsidized parents only have to pay $60 for a full month of care out of their own pocket (at MY center). Oh but wait, since the Fed gives $100 a month to every family with a child under 6, they actually don't pay anything. But even with that fact, they often are late with their 60 bucks. It's so aggravating - and really, 10 kids paying $60 on the first of every month and 4 paying $570 does not pay our wages does it? So waiting 6 weeks for the rest is quite painful. That's why my hours were scaled back so much, because even paying me a grand a month was not working out.

    I'm not whining about not having enough money, I could go out and get a full time job somewhere else if I wanted... I'm just frustrated that if there were NO subsidized kids at the center right now, we would have over $7000 in the bank at the beginning of every month and things wouldn't be quite as scary. Just imagine what it will be like with the $7/day program... are they going to make us wait 6 weeks for that too? Surely they don't want to pay money for spaces that were not used, so we would have to file month-end paper work and wait 2 weeks for Edmonton to sort it out and put the money in our account so our staff cheques don't bounce. Crazy times. They have been late so many times in the past 15 years, I shudder to think what would happen when the vast majority of ALL the income comes from this program. Blah!

    ReplyDelete

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These are my views and opinions. If you don't agree or think I am sadly misguided, that is your view. Feel free to share your thoughts but I also reserve my right to moderate content (IE foul language, excessive flaming, etc).

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