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Struggling to find a child care place? Read this.

kate-ellis-with-kids
Kate consults with the child care experts. Photo: Supplied.

By KATE ELLIS

A growing population needs community services to grow with it.

It makes sense that if you don’t plan for enough child care centres to meet growing demand from  families there will be a shortage of child care places.

That is exactly what has happened in our major cities.

When the Prime Minister and I did a live blog on child care issues with Mamamia readers in June we heard some very clear messages. One mother said:

“I have had my child on wait lists to get into child care centres from before he was born. I am due to go back to work in August and they have all told me I won’t get a placement until next year. I am down on a Family day care list too, and they too have told me not to hold out for that. I can’t afford a nanny’s daily rate, it is more than what I get paid – what …am I going to do come August to pay the rent and feed my child?”

childcare
Families around Australia are struggling to access a child care place.

This is a very common cry for help from families’ right around Australia who are struggling to access a child care place.

Although there has been growth in the child care sector, it simply hasn’t kept pace with demand.

I have just released new data based on the recent Census showing that some council areas in Sydney have just one long day care place for every five preschool-aged children. One council has just one place for every 25 children residing in that local government area.

In many of those council areas with the longest waiting lists, you cannot even apply to build a new child care centre if you want more than thirty places in that centre, making it commercially unviable.

This situation isn’t good enough when you consider that child care is no longer used by a small minority of families like it was even 20 years ago.

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There has been huge growth in the number of families accessing child care since our Government increased the Child Care Rebate from 30% up to 50% of child care costs, and increased the maximum amount claimable from $4354 up to $7,500 per child per year.

The number of children accessing child care has now hit one million for the first time.

This means that the number of children in child care across Australia has increased by nearly 38,000 in just one year – a growth of 4 per cent.

Our Government will continue to support an unlimited number of families through the Child Care Benefit and the non-means tested Child Care Rebate.

The problem is that if you can’t find a child care place you can’t access these family payments, and as many parents are finding out this means delaying a return to work.

But waiting for two or three years?

Kate Ellis
Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare Kate Ellis

Major child care providers are telling us that the major barriers to setting up new centres are a lack of land and outdated planning regulations.

They want to invest in this sector and provide more places for families but are facing barriers like lack of land, unfair restrictions and delays in planning approvals that can last years.

Reports of parents being placed on two or three year waiting lists are a clear sign that the planning system is not meeting the needs of children and families.

Child care centres are vital pieces of social infrastructure, like schools and hospitals, yet they are not treated the same way by our planning systems.

That is why this week I have announced that the Government has commissioned Associate Professor Roberta Ryan from the University of Technology Sydney to help increase supply of child care and reduce planning red tape by identifying what works in local planning and what doesn’t.

The availability of child care places must be a priority issue for all governments and our Government is absolutely prepared to do our bit. 

I believe that families, no matter where they live, have every reason to expect and demand a child care place in their local area.

Kate Ellis MP is the Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care and the Federal Member for Adelaide.

 Do you have problems finding child care?

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