Fixing childcare shortage not as simple as ABC

By Ashlee Betteridge

The childcare shortage in the Woollahra municipality is improving, but affordability and centre operating hours continue to be an issue for local parents, according to Woollahra Council’s director of community services Kylie Walshe. A year ago, Village Voice reported on Federal Government figures that revealed the Woollahra local government area area was completely lacking in long day care vacancies. But Ms Walshe said that a childcare supply and demand study undertaken by council in November last year showed that there were now 230 more childcare and preschool places in Woollahra than in 2005. “We still have gaps in the zero to two age group, but things are looking better for three to fives,” Ms Walshe said. “Operating hours and affordability are still big issues though for par-

New figures from Woollahra Council show that there has been an increase in the number of childcare places in the municipality. There is now a total of 835 childcare and preschool places in the area. These services provide places for 91 per cent of children living in the area aged between 2 and 5, but for only 9 per cent of infants between 0 to 1 years.

ents,” she said. A number of local private schools have established their own centres recently, Ms Walshe said. “In these cases, the schools don’t have to buy land to build a centre, so it’s more economical for them than someone starting from scratch,” she said.

While many of the newer commercial centres had high fees, they would reduce the pressure on community and not-for-profit centre waiting lists, Ms Walshe said. Local childcare operators contacted by the Village Voice said they still had lengthy waiting lists, particularly for children under three

years. Elizabeth Warren, director of the Sir Phillip Baxter Childcare Centre in Woollahra, said the area could do with more childcare places for children under three years, but new preschool services meant that there were enough places for four to five year olds. Michelle Bathgate, director of Ballykin at Rose Bay, said her centre had a waiting list of around 80 families. “It’s just really hard because we can’t accommodate all the families on our waiting list,” Ms Bathgate said. “There’s a real shortage of places in the area, and it’s really disheartening telling families we can’t guarantee them a place,” she said. Ms Bathgate said all levels of government should introduce grants to offset the cost of opening new childcare centres, which would help solve the shortage.