Childcare crisis

LOCAL CENTRES AT CAPACITY... Wyndham Early Learning centre educators Ashlee Mann and Taneika Trevena reading with some children. Currently the centre has a growing waiting list of over 100 families needing to secure a placement. Photo: Stephanie Holliday

WITH recent announcements from the Government regarding an ambitious overhaul of early childhood education and care, many childcare centres across the Goulburn Valley and beyond are already struggling with staff shortages and the ability to offer more places to families as the current system stands.

A $9B investment over the next decade was recently announced, in a bid to save families money and support women to return to the workforce. A typical household spends up to 20 percent of their income to cover childcare costs. When many families sit down to crunch the numbers, it’s simply not worth returning to full-time work, that’s if they can secure a spot at a centre.

Wyndham Early Learning centre director, Kathy Beer, disclosed that the centre currently has a waiting list of over 100 children for 2022, with the wait list for 2023 increasing daily.

The major factor contributing to a lack of places is staffing shortages across the industry.

“We are doing our best to run the centre at normal capacity; however, our nursery room is currently running with lower numbers. Some other centres have even had to close some days or combine with other centres,” said Kathy.

“We are down three educators, with others in the region facing even more chronic shortages.”

The government will aim to further build upon the ‘Best Start, Best Life’ program with three major changes including making kinder free across Victoria, delivering a new year of universal ‘Pre-Prep’ for 4-year-olds and establishing a further 50 government operated childcare centres.

These changes are quite ambitious considering the system is already under immense pressure. Kathy spoke of how these new plans can begin to take shape under current circumstances.

“I think fundamentally, attitudes towards the childcare educator profession need to shift. We are setting children up to succeed in their school years and it’s not just ‘child-minding’. So much goes into training and being an early childcare educator, and our renumeration also needs to reflect that,” said Kathy.

“There’s a long way to go if we are to have enough educators to supplement the proposed 30 hours a week of four-year-old kinder.”