Angela Pownall and Shannon Hampton – The West Australian on March 15, 2016, 12:50 am
Families are facing waits of up to two years to get child care in some Perth suburbs and one in three of the city’s long daycare centres is booked out.
The situation raises questions about how WA’s childcare sector will cope when the Federal Government launches its single-subsidy system next year, which is intended to enable more parents to return to work by using child care.
An investigation byThe West Australian found the number of childcare places listed as available on the Federal Government’s online database MyChild is significantly fewer than in reality.
Eighteen months afterheld a similar probe into the sector, the latest investigation shows little has improved.
Childcare providers have told of a “ridiculous” level of demand in some areas.
Blue Gum Early Learning and Child Care director Jane Brenzi said she had between 80 and 120 babies and toddlers on the waiting list for her Brentwood centre.
“People put their names down as soon as they find out they’ve fallen pregnant,” she said.
Fiona Murray, manager of Willetton Child Care Centre, said the two-year waiting list at her centre was growing each day.
“The Government is pushing for families to go back to work earlier and the demand is too high,” she said.
Of a total of 454 long daycare centres in metropolitan Perth on MyChild, 353 listed vacancies for a child aged two and under, while 101 had no vacancies.
The West contacted centres listed as having vacancies and found a further 51 were fully booked. Another 44 centres said they were almost booked out, with only one or two spots available a week.
The data showed 33 per cent of Perth long daycare centres listed on MyChild were fully booked for a child aged two and under.
A further 10 per cent were very close to being booked out, with only one or two spots left.
Some long daycare centre owners and managers said they expected it would get worse.
Centres were busiest in the inner city and western suburbs, where 50 per cent of centres were completely booked out.
Perth’s northern suburbs were also very busy, with 35 per cent of centres fully booked.
The data showed Perth families are now paying an average of $100.16 a day for child care.
But while some centres are swamped by demand, others are struggling.
Karen Stackpole, owner of Kids Corner Child Care Centre in Munster, said occupancy was 65 per cent and the opening of new corporate-owned centres had created oversupply.
Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page said she was very concerned about the over and under-supply of early childhood education and care.
“Under-supply is a major problem for families who cannot access the services that they need when they need them,” she said.