CANBERRA’S CHILDCARE CRISIS – IS IT REALLY A THING?
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Those dreaded childcare wait lists. Most of us know someone who’s experienced them – creating this idea that you need to put your kids name down before you’re even pregnant!
We decided to do some digging and find out what the situation is regarding childcare places in Canberra.
According to Communities@Work, there are more childcare places in Canberra than there are children.
Yes – you read that right.
“There’s statistics out there to say there’s definitely more places than children. Other care options like family day care and the growing trend of grandparents taking on care of children has relieved some of the pressure on centres, to the point where there’s an oversupply,” Chief Operations Officer, Melissa Haley, said.
So, where has this talk of a “childcare crisis” come from?
“There was a lack of childcare facilities available a few years ago, but as time has gone on, there’s been a lot of new centres come up in Canberra and a lot of corporate providers coming into the ACT,” Ms Haley said.
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Ms Haley said a lack of communication around the vacancies is also to blame for the misconceptions around childcare availability.
“Making people aware is around advertising and work from a government point of view to help people understand what care options they do have,” she said.
“Families will ring up and say I’d like a place in Kambah or Weston for example, and when told there’s no vacancies, it’s good to ask for nearby suburbs, as there can often be spaces in the next suburb over.”
That’s one of the key messages from Communities@Work – asking parents to expand their options when considering where to apply for childcare.
“Certainly, in some parts of Canberra, particularly in the inner-city area where people want childcare at their workplace, there’s a need to have the name on the waiting list,” Ms Haley admits.
“But as you broaden out into the suburbs where there’s a lot of centres outside the CBD, there’s certainly a lot of vacancies.”
Family Day Care is another option, with plenty of providers in Canberra.
“Family day care is bound by the same laws and regulations as all childcare centres. The only difference with a family day care is that it’s in a home environment and there’s smaller numbers of children,” Ms Haley said.
Ms Haley also acknowledges while Family Day Care is a worthy option, it might not be for everyone.
“There’s some families that like the idea of a family environment in the home and then there’s family that want their children in a bigger service in a centre, then there’s families that are happy with either.”
Finding a childcare place isn’t the only issue plaguing Canberra families.
We often hear stories of parents simply not being able to afford the exorbitant fees – forcing many mums to stay home, because it’s cheaper.
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Communities@Work said while talks are underway to address this, quality care does come at a cost.
“The Jobs for Families Act comes in July 2018, and that does change the way providers need to look at their business models as well as what the impact will be for families in regard to rebates and what the entitlements will be going forward,” Ms Haley said.
“But the cost to having good quality staff and a quality centre to look after your most precious asset does come at a cost.”
Talks are also underway to work out ways to better cater to faster growing areas like Gungahlin, where there’s a huge demand for childcare.
“When we look at centres and where they’re placed, there’s no structured planning and there does need to be some work done on how to better cater to faster growing areas. Those discussions are underway,” Ms Haley said.
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