Access and Inclusion Framework and Notional Space Targets

Ministry of Education
Early Years and Child Care Division
315 Front Street West, 11th Floor
Toronto ON M5V 3A4


TO: Children's Services Managers, Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Services Administration Boards

FROM: Holly Moran, Assistant Deputy Minister, Early Years and Child Care Division Ministry of Education

DATE: December 19, 2022

SUBJECT: Access and Inclusion Framework and Notional Space Targets

Thank you for your leadership and partnership in implementing the CWELCC system across the province. By November 1, 2022, 92% of child care operators in Ontario have opted in to the CWELCC system, and families with children in these programs are already benefitting from reduced child care costs.

Ontario’s vision for the CWELCC system is that more families in Ontario have access to high quality, affordable, flexible, and inclusive early learning and child care no matter where they live. Under the CWELCC agreement with the Government of Canada, Ontario has been funded to support the creation of 86,000 new licensed child care spaces (relative to 2019) by December 2026. Since 2019, 33,000 new spaces have become operational, with another 53,000 spaces to be created.

The Ministry of Education is taking the first steps toward allocating funding to create the remaining new CWELCC spaces. A key priority will be to support creating affordable child care spaces in communities with populations who need them most. This directed growth approach will support space creation in regions of the province that have had historically lower rates of space availability.

The ministry will engage with Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Services Administration Boards (CMSMs and DSSABs) on a plan that supports child care access for low-income children, vulnerable children, children from diverse communities, children with special needs, Francophone and Indigenous children. In addition to collaborating with service system managers, the ministry will engage with various partners from the child care and early years sector, as well as the federal government to strengthen the ministry’s approach to access and inclusion.

The ministry has developed an Access and Inclusion Framework for consultation. The purpose of the framework is to support CMSMs and DSSABs with updating local service system plans with an increased focus on access as it relates to inclusion. A copy of the Access and Inclusion Framework is included as Annex 1 of this memo.

Under the Access and Inclusion Framework, the ministry has developed a model to allocate funding for new spaces for children age 0-5 across CMSMs and DSSABs, with a focus on improving equity of access by working toward a common provincial access ratio of 37%. The allocation model is based on available data and incorporates existing child care capacity, demographics, socio-economic indicators, official language minorities and capacity for growth, and provides the enclosed notional space targets in each CMSM or DSSAB for the period 2022 through 2026. Total space targets include spaces to be created in schools and those in communities. These notional targets are subject to the agreement with service system managers and ongoing monitoring. The notional space targets may be found in Annex 2.

In identifying priority neighbourhoods for space creation and updating service plans,
CMSMs and DSSABs are asked to consider the degree to which new affordable child care
spaces in those neighbourhoods will support access to licensed child care spaces for:

  • Low-income families
  • Vulnerable communities
  • Diverse communities
  • Children with special needs
  • Francophone families
  • Indigenous families
  • Families needing more flexible models of care, including evening, weekend, and overnight care.

CMSMs and DSSABs have been provided with school-based space creation targets in line with the ministry’s capital planning and are asked to work together with school boards on the planning and timing of these spaces, as well as ensuring that licensees occupying purpose-built child care spaces in schools are funded as part of the CWELCC system.

Start-up Grants

Ontario’s Action Plan for implementing the CWELCC system includes providing capital start-up grants to support the creation of new spaces in targeted regions, and for underserviced communities and populations.

Capital start-up grants can be used to offset the initial costs required to expand or create spaces in these regions, such as equipment and leasehold improvements. The grants are available to support community-based capital projects and exclude capital projects for child care programs that run during school hours for kindergarten and school-aged children. Start-up funding may be used for retrofits, renovations or expansion projects, but cannot be used to purchase land or buildings. The eligible expenses, reporting requirements, and parameters related to the start-up grants can be found in Annex 3.

In keeping with the ministry’s commitment to support all licensees regardless of auspice, for-profit and not-profit licensed child care operators who are enrolled in the CWELCC system will be eligible to apply for capital start-up grant funding.
To access capital start-up grant funding, CMSMs/DSSABs will require a commitment from the licensee to:

  • participate in the CWELCC system for the remainder of the CWELCC agreement (2026), and
  • spend the capital start-up grant funding within two years.

Eligible licensees will be able to receive a grant covering up to $90 per square foot of a new or expanded space with a cap up to $350,000 for every 50 child care spaces created.

The ministry will allocate funding for the 2023-24 capital start-up grants to CMSMs and DSSABs proportionally using the CWELCC child care allocation formula for new full day licensed child care spaces for children under six to meet the needs of underserved areas and populations.

CMSMs and DSSABs will distribute the grants to licensed child care operators in accordance with the capital start-up grant funding guidelines and provide the required reporting information back to the ministry. CMSMs and DSSABs can leverage their knowledge to support local planning and development based on the needs of their community.

Next Steps

As a first step, CMSMs and DSSABs are asked to review their notional space expansion targets and identify priority neighbourhoods for CWELCC funding. CMSMs and DSSAABs are asked to complete the Reporting Template attached as Annex 4 to confirm their space targets and list the priority neighbourhoods where they propose to locate their child care spaces, both school-based and community-based, and submit it to their Early Years Advisor no later than January 20, 2023.

The ministry will review the Reporting Templates and where necessary, discuss templates with service system managers. The ministry will assess the plans to ensure that provincial commitments in the CWELCC agreement, for access and inclusion, can be met in aggregate. Following this, the ministry will confirm funding allocations for growth.

Following this confirmation, service system managers are asked to incorporate space expansion and inclusion plans into their existing five-year service plans by Spring 2023 to ensure these spaces are created in communities and for populations that need them most.

In recognition of the existing and anticipated induced demand for affordable child care, service system managers are also invited to share information related to additional capacity for growth.

As you are aware, the CWELCC agreement requires Ontario to ensure a ratio of not-for-profit and for-profit spaces by the end of the agreement in 2025-26. The ministry is continuing to review the results of the enrolment period and expects to provide additional guidance to CMSMs and DSAABs on this in the near future, to ensure that Ontario’s obligations under the agreement are met.

Updated Regulations

To support a transition from open enrolment to directed growth, the ministry has introduced new regulations and changes to the licensing process. New applicants for child care licences, and applications for expansions to existing child care licensees, will be required to seek early confirmation from CMSMs, that their program will be eligible for CWELCC funding, prior to beginning a licensing application or applicants will need to confirm that they do not intend to enrol in CWELCC. CMSMs will be asked to confirm that a new application aligns with their service system plan, and if that confirmation is provided, to reserve CWELCC funded spaces for that applicant.

This change is intended to streamline the licensing process and ensure that applicants, whether they provide home child care or centre-based programs serving children under six have early confirmation related to whether their program will be eligible for CWELCC funding as part of their licensing application.

All prospective licensees will also be required to secure local zoning approval (permitted use) prior to applying for a licence.

Licensees who opted out in 2022 and wish to enrol in 2023 may contact their local service system manager as of January 1, 2023. Local service system managers may consider enrolling these licensees in CWELCC if the program aligns with their service system plan.

Thank you for your ongoing collaboration and partnership as we work to support Ontario families and the child care sector. I look forward to working together to continue to strengthen the early years and child care system throughout Ontario.

Original signed by:

Holly Moran, Assistant Deputy Minister
Early Years and Child Care Division, Ministry of Education
cc: Early Years Advisors, Early Years and Child Care Division, Ministry of Education School Board Early Years Leads

Annex 1- Access and Inclusion Framework
Annex 2 - CWELCC Five Year Space Allocation
Annex 3- Capital Start-up Grants: Parameters, Eligible and Ineligible Expenses, and Reporting Requirements
Annex 4- CWELCC Space Reporting Template