RDAMNC shows a “childcare crisis” in NSW Mid North Coast
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > RDAMNC shows a “childcare crisis” in NSW Mid North Coast

RDAMNC shows a “childcare crisis” in NSW Mid North Coast

by Freya Lucas

February 19, 2024

Data from Regional Development Australia Mid North Coast (RDAMNC) has shown that parents across the New South Wales Mid North Coast are struggling to access early childhood education and care (ECEC), and that services are battling “chronic staff shortages.”


These challenges were discussed at the Ignite Mini event held in Bellingen on 8 February, where RDAMNC Chief Operations Officer Dianne Wall said the situation on the Mid North Coast was “critical”.


Ms Wall’s comments were shared in local news source News of the Area. 


“One thing that has really been highlighted to us is the value of the role that ECEC plays in the broader economic environment. It has been grossly undervalued.”


RDAMNC surveyed ECEC operators on the Mid North Coast, finding that just 52 per cent of providers offered care for children one year of age and under. 87.5 per cent of those surveyed have waitlists to access their services, and a quarter (25 per cent) of providers shared that they were operating under approved limits because of staff shortages. 


Of those surveyed, 56 per cent had positions vacant, and of those, 33 per cent have had those positions vacant for 12 months or more. 


“Staffing really is a big issue for the sector,” Ms Wall said.


When parents were surveyed, 92 per cent of them had a child under two years of age who needed ECEC, 52 per cent of whom were unable to access it. Almost all respondents (91 per cent) were on waiting lists for ECEC, with many on multiple waiting lists, an average of 4.7 lists per family. 


As a result of being unable to access care, families have limited opportunities for employment, with 85 per cent of those who responded saying they needed or wanted to be working more hours. 


Attendees at the Ignite event quickly turned their minds to solutions, with personal trainer Sarah O’Carrigan sharing her experience of launching Bub Hub, a co-working space and creche which allows parents to engage in employment while accessing convenient ECEC.


The service operates out of outside school hours care (OSHC) buildings, and is community led, in response to the need for more flexible, affordable and accessible forms of work and care. 


A panel discussion was then held with Ms O’Carrigan, community member Holly Quinn, and Bellingen Deputy Mayor Ellie Tree, who discussed their experiences attempting to access consistent ECEC in the region.


Ms Tree shared her ‘experiment’ of being on 30 waiting lists from Macksville to Coramba, saying the challenge was in being offered one day of care 50 kilometres away to the north, and then an additional two days 20 kilometres away to the south. 


“You just can’t, it is not possible to do it that way,” she said. 


Ms Quinn made comparisons between the Mid North and metropolitan areas of Sydney, where she had recently relocated from, saying that while Sydney still has issues with access, there are often many services within walking distance, and therefore parents have more choice. 


Her perspective is that the Sydney services were also more aligned to the needs of working families, taking on children from six weeks of age, providing meals, and being open for longer hours. 


In the Mid North many of the available services are preschools, which close in the school holidays and cater for older children, she added.


To read the original coverage of this story please see here.  

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