It’s a helping hand for families who need one, as the provincial government is offering more than 100 low-cost quality licenced childcare spaces.

Parkside Academy on Sprott Road in Duncan was the site of an announcement that the Childcare BC Universal Prototype Site Initiative, worth an estimated $153 million dollars, will provide universal childcare throughout the province.

Xituluq Hwitsum had to work two jobs to help make ends meet, but the pilot project at Parkside has helped him and his partner provide their son with quality childcare for an affordable price.

“We got so lucky getting in here and now that we’re here, how do we walk away from that,” said Hwitsum. “Everything else is five times more expensive and then, all of a sudden, you have the car payment, insurance, rent, and all of a sudden you see the percentage going to that every month instead of savings. I think we’re staying here for a while.”

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley said the Hwitsum family is one of many benefiting from this low-cost childcare.

“Some of the parents here are saving more than one thousand dollars a month, that is a huge number in the lives of struggling families,” said Routley. “Anybody who can say they’ve had their had their costs reduced to that level, their lives have changed. One of the parents here talked about how he doesn’t have to work a second job anymore and he can spend weekends with his son, you just can’t put a price on that.”

Hwitsum said with the two hundred dollar monthly bill for childcare, he’s back down to one job and is so thankful he and his partner were able to get their son in at Parkside.

“Neither of us was working long enough to get maternity leave, calling around telling people ‘I need daycare in two weeks (some people plan this six months ahead), but just because neither of us were able to get maternity leave and worked long enough, we just had to tough it out,” said Hwitsum. “It’s crazy to hear they have a 70 person waiting list for the infant and toddler room.”

Routley said this prototype initiative does more than provide people with more free time.

“This is a service that has a much greater effect than just freeing up people’s time,” said Routley. “It gives people the right to participate in the economy, in their community, it gives families the support they need to be healthy, and it makes our communities more healthy, and people will thrive.”

The Parkside Academy Childcare Society provides pre-school and after-school programs along with StrongStart programs in Alexander, Bench, Drinkwater, and Khowhemun schools.