Lack of ECEC options keeps parents at home, new ACCC survey finds
Parents and guardians are having to delay a return to work post-baby due to a lack of early childhood education and care (ECEC) options, a new survey has found, with others explaining that “extremely expensive fees” are keeping them away.
The findings were shared by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who recently conducted a survey of parents and guardians, which has had over 2,000 responses thus far.
The survey will provide critical information for the ACCC’s Childcare inquiry, which delivers its interim report next month. The survey closes on 4 June and the ACCC is urging more families to take part.
“We urge more parents and guardians to tell us about their experiences accessing quality and affordable childcare,” said ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.
“We are especially looking to hear from parents and guardians living in Queensland and Tasmania.”
The responses the ACCC has gathered so far are creating what Ms Cass-Gottlieb described as “a vivid picture” of the issues families face, and are providing “critical data ” to allow the ACCC’s analysis to be in depth.
The majority of families that responded to the survey so far have said that ECEC fees are “somewhat financially burdensome” or that they struggle to pay their fees. Almost all families said their fees have increased in the past twelve months.
“We are still in the process of collecting and analysing information to understand the cost of providing childcare and the prices people are paying,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
“These preliminary insights from families are providing important perspectives that help inform our evolving understanding of the childcare sector.”
Long waitlists delay return to work
Early responses to the survey show that most families joined ECEC waitlists more than a year in advance to secure a spot, in many cases well before the child is born.
Despite this, many families still say they couldn’t get a place when they needed it, which delayed their return to paid work or study, or caused them to have to reduce their hours of work.
Concerns about how waitlists function have featured among several survey responses, with waitlists described as “disorganised”, and that the lists seem to “operate arbitrarily”.
Some families say their children with disability refused childcare
Some families have said they experienced ‘service refusal’ when they approached ECEC providers for a place for their child with disability.
Other families said finding a provider that was equipped to support their child with disability was very difficult.
“We appreciate the experiences of families with children with disability are diverse and while this may not be the experience for all, it is an important preliminary insight from the parents and guardians survey,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
The Parents and guardians survey is open until 4 June 2023 for families with children aged 0-13 years of age, or children with a disability aged 0-18 years of age. The survey can be completed anonymously.
Parents and guardians from linguistically diverse communities who would like help understanding and responding to the survey can call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450.
An interim report will be provided to the Treasurer in June 2023. A final report that covers the full range of issues identified and considered by the inquiry is due to the Treasurer by 31 December 2023.
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