By Jessica Donaldson
A shortage of space in Western Australia’s childcare centres is forcing parents to cut back on working hours, or hire in-home carers.
The Federal Government’s My Child website, which lists childcare vacancies, shows 170 of the more than 400 childcare centres in Perth have full-time vacancies for children up to age two. However, when West Australian newspaper journalist Rhianna King made enquiries at the centres with availability she found that only 50 of the centres had full-time vacancies and many of them only had room for one or two children.
Forty-two of the centres contacted had no available space for 0-2 year olds, and had waiting lists of up to 12 months long.
Debbie Mashford, from Goodstart Early Learning in Edgewater, said she believed the shortage in childcare spaces was mostly due to parents being forced to return to work earlier than they had in the past. She added “In the 13 years I’ve been in child care I have never known demand as big as what it is this year.”
Some centres reported they had been forced to close their waiting lists because the lists were growing too long, and this news was not being taken well by frustrated parents.
WA Childcare Association president Evan Hicks agrees that the sector is facing a crisis.
Hicks says “I can’t think of a time when there wasn’t a crisis for baby places . . . because of the higher cost involved.” Babies cost more to care for, requiring one carer for every four babies, compared with a one-to-ten ratio for older children.
The Association is calling for the government to increase the childcare benefit for parents of under-threes by up to 30 per cent, in a move designed to encourage parents back to work and give financially stretched childcare centres the ability to fund more places. But with the price of childcare set to rise yet again due to sweeping national reforms that take effect in early 2014, it’s uncertain whether centres will actually be able to fund the much needed places for under twos.
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