So you may have seen in the media over the past few days that the Australian Greens released survey results showing that places for babies at childcare had reduced nationally in recent times – 10% they claim. The survey results showed that childcare spots for almost all age groups were becoming more and more difficult to find.
The issue with a national survey in child care and extrapolating those results out to Western Australia is that it fails to take in to account the recent changes to the now national childcare laws and standards. In general the Eastern States of Australia enjoyed more relaxed child to staff ratios than we have had here in WA, that is, in the east they have been able to have more children in a centre with fewer staff to look after them. With the introduction of National childcare laws and regulations all states were brought in to line (almost) with Western Australia – WA still has more stringent child to staff ratios in some age groups and it is unlikely that WA childcare centres have dropped any places for babies.
With the National Childcare Law changes, it stands to reason therefore that a childcare centre in the Eastern States has had a tough decision to make as a result of the rule changes, either take on more staff to keep the number of children they have (if they have the facilities to do that) or drop the number of children they can care for and keep the same number of staff. It is becoming very clear that many centres in the Eastern States are dropping the number of children they can care for and keeping the same number of staff. It could be seen that there is a very straight line to be drawn between the introduction of the National Childcare Laws and the reduction in childcare places available.
This decision to drop the number of children they can care for has a two fold effect to people looking for childcare in those areas, it reduces the number of childcare spots available and it increases the price of those spots, ie higher fees for parents. The centre has the same number of staff to pay, the same lease and other overheads to pay but less customers to pay for these services, simple maths will tell you that fees would have to increase to cover this or the centre would not survive.
In Western Australia we have not had the massive change in staff to child ratios that the Eastern States have seen, so it is doubtful that the places for babies at childcare centres in WA has fallen by that amount, that is not to say that there isn’t a shortage of positions available for babies or other age groups, it is simply to say that this shortage is not the result of a drop in positions available as the survey may suggest.