Challenges in accessing care inspire women to collect own data
The Sector > Economics > Affordability & Accessibility > Challenges in accessing ECEC inspires academics to gather their own data

Challenges in accessing ECEC inspires academics to gather their own data

by Freya Lucas

July 03, 2024

Two women from Wollongong, in the south east of the Sydney basin in New South Wales have turned their challenges in accessing early childhood education and care (ECEC) into an opportunity to gather data, with the hope of advocating for others like them. 


Summer May Finlay and Belinda Jackson both experienced similar frustrations when it came time to place their children into care, ultimately leading them to conduct a survey of parents in their local area, finding that extensive waitlists and limited places are impacting the financial situation of parents and carers and limiting their career opportunities. 


Ms Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman and University of Wollongong academic, learned of the depths of the issue when she turned to social media, as many young families do, seeking support and guidance from other new mothers. 


“You’d constantly see the comments,” she explained to The ABC. 


Does anyone know if there are any openings? I’ve got to go back to work. I have had my child on daycare lists since before they were born. I’m going back to work in a couple of weeks and I don’t have childcare’ were all common comments, which were similar to her own experience. 


“I called one centre,” she said, “and it had a waitlist of 800. I spoke to another centre and they said it was a waitlist in the four digits but they wouldn’t give me any more details than that.” 


While Ms Finlay was eventually able to find a place, she experienced the same challenge when her second child was born, and began to see the impact on her career more clearly, with opportunities to move into senior leadership roles hampered by a lack of care options. 


Ms Finlay encountered Ms Jackson, who works in social planning, through a Facebook group, and the pair quickly decided to gather some hard evidence to support the problems they were seeing play out. 


“In my day job it’s really important to establish an evidence base. Stories can take you so far, but a really solid evidence base really helps validate that there is an issue,” Ms Jackson shared with The ABC.


The duo quickly had 70 responses to their survey, and found that more than 30 per cent of respondents had lost more than $50,000 per year due to a lack of accessible ECEC.


These findings were used by the pair to make a submission to the Productivity Commission ahead of the release of its highly anticipated report into the state of the sector, which included their assertion that  “at a conservative estimate that’s a total loss of $1.3 million of income per annum for our respondents”.


They also found more than 65 per cent of families were on six or more ECEC waitlists for more than 18 months. Other challenges included inconvenient locations at 43 per cent, insufficient days at 48 per cent, lack of care for all children at 69 per cent, and unsuitable opening times at 54 per cent.


In short, Ms Jackson said, the survey “just demonstrated beyond the anecdotes that there is a serious problem.” 


In terms of proposed solutions, Ms Jackson and Ms Finlay propose the following: 


  • attach temporary childcare facilities to large-scale infrastructure projects like hospital rebuilds and universities; 
  • provide business incentives, such as salary sacrifice mechanisms, to offer childcare services to employees; and
  • implement financial incentives to encourage investment in childcare centres, especially in areas where housing development is more profitable.


The Productivity Commission was due to submit its report to the Government 1 July 2024, with findings expected to be released later in the year. 


Access the original coverage of this story here   . 

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button