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Dufferin EarlyON Staff To Be Cut By 53%


Staffing at Dufferin EarlyON will decrease from fifteen to seven due to the service being ‘reimagined.’

On May 27, 2021, Dufferin County’s Committee of Health and Human Services received a staff report regarding an update of the service review occurring for Dufferin EarlyON. Several recommendations accompanied the document, one of which was for the council to direct staff to transition permanently to the new service model by June 25, 2021, reducing the EarlyON staff by eight. The report states that the County will provide human resources support to those impacted by the shift.

“The Pandemic created the opportunity to reflect and explore our service delivery methods,” the initial August 13, 2020, Dufferin EarlyON update pronounced.

As set out by the province, the core mandate of the EarlyON service is supporting early learning and development, engaging parents and caregivers, and making connections for families (such as with Public Health). Dufferin County has been examining the EarlyON service for approximately a year, with the first update going to the county council in August 2020. The act follows the County’s childcare service review and the closure of Jean Hamlyn Dare Care Centre.

“In Dufferin, we’ve always provided an EarlyON service that exceeded our mandated services and programming by the province. Always.” asserted Anna McGregor, Director of Community Services for Dufferin County, at the May 27, 2021, committee meeting. “The changes here, if we do follow them, means we’ll still actually be doing more than the mandated level.”

Dufferin County has the provincially mandated responsibility for delivering the region’s Childcare and Early Years services. Dufferin EarlyON offers community child play experiences and support services for parents. Funding for these programs comes from municipalities and the Ministry of Education. During the shutdowns, Dufferin EarlyON services have been offered virtually, with some indoor and outdoor programming. The report explains how five staff have operated this new service model, with the remaining ten on Infection Disease Emergency Leave, extended by the Ontario Government from January 2, 2021, to July 3, 2021.

“The reduced staffing model currently in place as a result of COVID-19 restrictions has been working well,” the May 27, 2021 staff report states. “Using the reduced staffing model the County could continue to meet its mandated core services, after COVID-19, with little municipal funding required.”

According to the most recent report, an external consultant performed a comprehensive review of the program over the first quarter of 2021. The study considered the delivery method of EarlyON services, getting full use of the provincial funding, and possibly reducing municipal contribution. Moreover, they looked at how funding could be changed to address areas where financial challenges still exist. Childcare funding was cited as an example. Clients, local partner agencies, and EarlyON staff working during the pandemic provided feedback during the review process.

“The change in service delivery has resulted in a more modern and responsive service delivery model,” the May 27, 2021 staff report says. “This is not about taking away the EarlyON services, it is about providing services in a more responsive way.”

The document reveals that a shift in the Dufferin EarlyON service could allow for an estimated $338,000 in savings to be redirected to child care fee subsidies and the Inclusion for Children with Additional Needs (i-CAN) program run by Dufferin Child and Family Services. It could also go towards general operating grants for the local childcare sector, enabling them to expand and improve their services. Council resolved to cover expenses associated with the transition, such as severance packages, with in-year savings and the Children’s Services Reserve Fund.

“The changes would mean that we could divert some of the municipal funding to other areas of essential services where we know that are ongoing needs,” McGregor informed the councilmembers.

The proposed 2021 work plan includes recommendations such as introducing a taxi voucher system to provide transportation to EarlyON locations and approved activities. Re-introducing a ‘dads’ program’ and increased hours of operation are also points presented in the plan. The new staffing structure is shown to be one supervisor, one early learning and quality coordinator, one program coordinator, and four resource workers. The work plan acknowledges that internet connectivity impacts some parents’ ability to access virtual programming. There are currently no planned site closures of any of the three EarlyON locations in Dufferin.

“This has always been a difficult item to try to balance, but we knew that this was going to come at some point,” declared Mono’s Mayor Laura Ryan, Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee at the May 27 meeting.

The report and proposed 2021 work plan passed committee on May 27, 2021, and was subsequently presented to Dufferin County Council on June 10, 2021.

References – Dufferin EarlyON Staff To Be Cut By 53%

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