Childcare price rises leave Felicity working for almost no money

Sydney mother Felicity Frankish, who has just had her third child, says she is now having to choose between working for ...
Sydney mother Felicity Frankish, who has just had her third child, says she is now having to choose between working for almost no money or staying home with her children and forgoing the educational benefits of preschool. Photo: James Alcock

Fee rises of 20 per cent or more at childcare centres in NSW have prompted calls for the government to "name and shame" some of Sydney's most expensive centres.

Childcare centres in some parts of the city, including the CBD, the north shore and northern beaches are charging up to $200 a day.

Federal Opposition spokeswoman for early childhood education Amanda Rishworth says some parents are reporting fee rises that amount to more than $3000 in extra childcare costs a year and called on the government to "start holding these centres to account".

"I have been contacted by a family concerned about fee rises [in NSW]," Ms Rishworth wrote in a letter to federal Education Minister Dan Tehan last month.

"I am advised [one centre] has increased its fees by 21 per cent since last year, an increase of over $3120 a year."

Sydney mother Felicity Frankish, who has just had her third child, said she had to choose between working for almost no money, because she would have to pay such high childcare fees, or staying at home with her children and forgoing the educational benefits of preschool.

"We have a price rise every year and I'm just debating my next move now," said Ms Frankish, who works in marketing and also runs her own parenting website.

"I want to go back to work. I love working and especially working in an office, but the flipside of it is that my oldest daughter is almost four and needs daycare at this point. She is in the preschool program and it doesn't make sense to pull her out."

However, Ms Frankish said all the money she made would go towards childcare if she returns to full-time work, even with the federal government's childcare subsidy previously covering about half of the family's childcare costs.

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Chiang Lim, chief executive of the Australian Childcare Alliance NSW, said a major reason for price rises was that the state has some of the highest regulations in the country.

"In NSW, childcare centres must have four full-time degree-qualified teachers, even as the number of people with diploma qualifications increases, where other states need to have one [degree-qualified teacher] for the same number of students," Mr Lim said.

He said centres were also facing "subjective" rating assessments and having to pay consultants to meet the complex compliance requirements.

"It's a combination of NSW generally being the most expensive state in Australia and centres facing significant labour shortages and competing for a smaller workforce because of the degree-qualification requirements," he said.

"We're also spending more and more money on advice to try to be compliant with a system where the goalposts keep changing and somebody's got to pay for that advice.

"We don't necessarily want less regulation; we want sensible regulation."

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education said: "NSW is continuously working with the sector and with other governments to review and refine processes to cut red tape and make it easier for the sector to focus on what they do best, educating and caring for our children.

"The NSW Department of Education makes no apology in ensuring the safety of children and supporting their educational and developmental outcomes through regulation."

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