HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's education minister says staff pay and parental subsidies in the province's regulated child care system are deplorable, and improvements are coming.

Karen Casey was reacting Thursday to a report done by her department that says at $12.84, hourly pay rates for early childhood workers are among the lowest in Canada and need to be increased.

The report also calls for a boost to subsidy rates for low income parents, which it says are the lowest in the country. It says that over the last decade the daily subsidy rate had increased by just $2.25.

"Those are absolutely deplorable statistics," said Casey. "It is a fact, it's what we have and I wanted to know what we have so I can act on it and make improvements."

The report makes 18 recommendations aimed at improving a system it says needs to be made more affordable and accessible.

However, Casey wouldn't say when or what kind of changes are coming, saying the government's response would have to wait until after the April 19 provincial budget.

She said changes that would bring the province closer to the national standard for daycare would come "within the next few months."

The report says hourly rates for early childhood educators in other provinces range from $13.50 cents in neighbouring New Brunswick, to a high of $19.13 in Quebec.

Among the other problems identified in the system are a lack of daycare spaces and training for staff and the need to set standards and guidelines to focus on best practices.

"Currently, we know that there are fewer child care spaces, early learning programs and early years centres than there are children," the report states.

It said growth in the child care sector would have to be "strategic and focused on enabling access for as many children and families as possible."

Casey wasn't prepared to discuss the cost of revamping the system, but did say the province has been talking with Ottawa about possible financial help under a federal strategy looking at early childhood support.

She said a copy of the Nova Scotia report had been sent to Jean-Yves Duclos, the federal minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

"When the federal money is dispersed there will be some coming to the provinces and I want to make sure the federal government knows clearly what our situation is in Nova Scotia," said Casey.

The report was the result of a public consultation that saw 7,000 people respond to an on-line survey. Another 400 people took part in focus groups that were held in 23 communities.