Esperance parents asked to cut childcare hours as shortages bite
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Parents in Esperance asked to reduce hours as service battles staff shortages

Parents in Esperance asked to reduce hours as service battles staff shortages

by Freya Lucas

March 15, 2024

Parents in the West Australian town of Esperance are being asked to reduce the hours their child is in care as a combination of staffing shortages, a lengthy waitlist and housing pressures combine to put pressure on early childhood education and care (ECEC) service providers. 


Esperance has around 14,000 residents, and two ECEC services. The isolated coastal community is famed for “paradise-like scenery and some of the whitest beaches and clearest waters you’ll find in Australia”. 


Kellie Holben, director of Lingalonga Childcare Centre, one of the two services in Esperance, spoke with The ABC and described the current circumstances as “the most dire staffing situation” she has seen during her time with the not for profit provider. 


When educators apply for vacant positions, her first question is “have you secured somewhere to stay?”, with many confirming that they have not. When searching for accommodation or rentals, many are surprised to find there is nothing available, and they are therefore unable to work in the town. 


“Unfortunately, if we keep losing staff or we’re unable to replace [them], we will have to look at our current families and … we will have to make the executive decision on whose role to terminate temporarily until we can find the staffing,” she said.


Parents were recently asked to reduce the hours they access, and while many were understanding, not all were in a position to do so, with some families only recently starting care to allow them to return to work, placing them in a difficult situation when it comes to asking for flexible working arrangements. 


The pressures of being unable to access ECEC are also causing issues for employers in the town, with workers not moving to the area, and even some positions with housing included, such as with the local police force, being unable to go ahead because of lack of available housing stock. 


Esperance chief executive Shane Burge said the town had recently missed out on extra police being assigned because there were no government (GROH) properties available to house them. 


“It is a big issue and something that is concerning for us because they do have police positions that would be suitable for Esperance, yet they can’t be located here because of lack of housing,” he said.


To access the original coverage of this story please see here

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