Summit to discuss childcare shortages

"[Childcare] is a vital service that a huge proportion of our community relies upon" ... Minister Kate Ellis
"[Childcare] is a vital service that a huge proportion of our community relies upon" ... Minister Kate Ellis 

The Minister for Early Childhood and Childcare, Kate Ellis, will tomorrow bring together state and territory ministers to push for the creation of more childcare services around the nation.

The summit will bring together three tiers of government – federal, state and local – in an effort to reduce the red-tape laws and regulations that currently stand in the way of the creation of new childcare services, or the expansion of existing centres.     

Ellis said today that the Federal Government recognises that the lack of childcare spots is a major concern for many Australian families – and for the future of our communities.

“There has been a 9 per cent increase in the number of children in childcare in the last year. In comparison, there’s been a 0.7 per cent increase in the number of childcare services,” she said.

“So I think when you have a look at that growth pattern you can see a very big problem coming our way.”

Ellis said that the lack of childcare spaces wasn’t an investment issue, as private investors were willing to establish new services. Instead, she said, the problem stemmed from barriers created by state and local laws and regulations.

“[We’ve heard that] it’s taken years to get planning approvals, that governments won’t free up land where services are required, and that there are a whole lot of frankly quite ridiculous regulations in place,” she said.

“A lot of [the regulations] were put in place 30 years ago, when this was viewed as a babysitting service that a minority of families relied upon ... they’ve never been changed to recognise that this is a vital service that a huge proportion of our community relies upon.”

In some areas, such as Balmain in Sydney’s inner west, families have been waiting for up three years for a childcare place for their child. In others, parents can wait up to two years for a place for a baby.

The summit will also provide an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss the national childcare centre assessment program. Under the new National Quality Framework, childcare providers are assessed on a range of factors, including cost, safety, cleanliness and ratio of staff to children, against a nationwide scale. Once the results are compiled, Ellis says she would like to see the results released to the public, “hopefully next year”.

Releasing the results of the assessment would give parents the opportunity to compare their local child care centre to others in their area, and to centres around the nation as a whole, Ellis explained.

The results of the summit will be released tomorrow.