More than 70 per cent of the Casey electorate is a childcare desert
Analysis from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute has revealed that access to early childhood education and care (ECEC) in the Casey electorate is the worst in Victoria, with four children for every one available space.
In response to the findings, education policy fellow at the University, Hannah Matthews, said the distance between a number of towns with small communities is likely an influencing factor on childcare accessibility issues – with people living in neighbouring towns needing to travel some distance to access childcare.
While over 1 million Australians need to drive 20 minutes or more to access ECEC, most of these families are from regional or rural towns, according to the research.
Local publication Star Mail reached out to a number of ECEC services in the region, with Brooke Eerden, manager of Dandenong Ranges Childcare Centre saying the workforce shortages in the sector may also be a factor in the issues.
Many educators, Ms Eerden said, choose to work closer to the city. While there’s public transport, and her service is accessible, the distance from the city makes it hard to recruit.
“It causes me stress when I have a parent in front of me who’s close to tears, because she needs to go back to work in two months and she can’t get in anywhere,” she said.
Currently the waitlist for services at Dandenong Ranges Childcare Centre stands at over 140 which includes both new families, and existing families who need more care. When asked for her perspective on potential solutions, Ms Eerden said “if I could tap into the midwives I’d go back that far – because I do have people on my waitlist…where they’re not pregnant with their second child yet but they know that they’re going to be trying and they’ve already put them on the waitlist, because they know how hard it’s going to be to get that second child into care.”
Ms Eerden said the same issues pre-covid still remain in the sector, also supported by Mitchell Institute data suggesting internet job vacancies in childcare occupations are in fact at a record high, sitting at well over 5,000 advertised jobs in 2022.
“It’s not good,” the Upwey childcare manager said. To access the original coverage of this story please see here.
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