Parents are likely to face higher childcare fees to meet mandatory new staffing levels when centres reopen on January 10, but only an unlucky minority will encounter the $20 a day rises predicted by some lobby groups.
KU Children's Services has announced an average fee increase of $3.66 a day; SDN Children's Services lifted fees $5 a day last July, and plans a small increase this July. ABC Learning, the biggest non-profit provider in NSW, will raise fees by between $2 and $3 a day.
Price rises will be restricted by what the market can bear and the extent of the competition, operators said. Chris Buchtmann, the owner of Jillys Educational Childcare Centres, will put up fees for under-twos by $20 a day to $115 in his North Sydney centre and by $10 a day to $70 in Rossmore where the number of centres had grown from two to 25 in five years.
Berry Cottage at Naremburn plans a rise of $5 a day to $100. The increases follow the introduction from January 1 of improved carer-to-child ratios in the under-twos room, from one carer for five infants to one for four.
The pain of fee increases will be greatly reduced when parents will be able to elect to have their childcare rebate paid fortnightly and directly to their centres, proprietors said. This will halve their advance payment. But the federal legislation does not come into effect until July.
Krystal Farley, of Sefton, said her fees had risen from $110 a day to $118 for her son, Joshua Kohler, 14 months, at the World Tower Childcare Centre in the city, one of the few now open. When she is able to have the childcare tax rebate paid to the centre, the upfront cost will fall to $59 a day.
But Ms Farley, a receptionist, who pays the childcare bills and groceries while her husband Bradley Kohler, a housing estimator, pays the rest of the bills, and gets the tax rebate, said the extra advance cost ''means the grocery money is almost gone''.
She had considered finding a cheaper centre but she was happy with the care her son, who attends full-time, had received.
Most operators have elected to spread the cost of extra staff in the infants' room over all parents using the centre but Mr Buchtmann has elected not to do so.
Other operators told the Herald if they spread the cost they would lose older children to nearby centres that only catered for two- to five-year-olds.
Renate Cooper, the owner of four Fidgety Frogs centres in south-west Sydney and the Southern Highlands, plans increases of $2 or $3 a day in July. ''We have done our numbers and we feel if anything we may generate more business,'' she said.
Lyn Connolly, a former vice-president of Childcare NSW, the private operators' peak body, said ''people will try not to put up fees because there are vacancies everywhere''.
Earlier this year the lobby group said a survey it commissioned showed prices would rise by $20.56 a day.
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