Bondi View

Council centres on childcare

Waverley Council is preparing a report that would see the construction of brand new childcare centres in the Eastern Suburbs over coming years. Announced at the July 27 Council meeting, the mayoral minute aimed to investigate the matter so Council could create an economically viable model for delivering childcare services to the community.

Waverley Mayor John Wakefield said: “Council’s aims with the initiative is to simply achieve a significant increase in childcare provision. This project has to be driven through strong leadership. It’s a big project over many years and needs to be driven strongly and passionately by people who believe in the right thing to do.”

Council employs a three-tiered model to deliver its aims, including council-managed long day care, family day care, and community day care. But there are not enough childcare centres to meet the “enormous, unsatisfied” demand of a rapidly growing community. According to Mr Wakefield, the model of direct supply by council is cost-neutral and will not affect the Council’s current budget.

The other two models are direct government subsidies, which allow Council to provide childcare by aiding a business that would supply the service.

Recently, the issue has gained momentum, with 17 of the 19 childcare centres in Bondi Junction said to be full. Liberal Councillor Sally Betts said: “It’s not a crisis, it hasn’t been worse than the last 10 years. We’re [just] having a baby boom in the Eastern Suburbs. We’ve got about 800 on our waiting lists, but you do need to understand that when someone’s having a baby, they put their names on a number of lists.”

Elena Vic, owner of Funky Monkey Family Daycare, believes that the problem lies not with the availability of childcare centres, but rather with the age restrictions imposed by Council. Mrs Vic said:

“It’s a very slow process with our family daycare because every carer is not allowed to have more than five  children. What it means is that there are limited opportunities for babies to get in, and it’s much easier for older children.”

According to Mrs Vic, the required number of children per carer in small businesses like Funky Monkey Family Daycare is being reduced from five to four, with the new legislation set to be implemented in 2014.

“Of course, the costs will go down, and that’s 30 per cent of our income,” she said. “I think it’s unfair, because all our fees keep going up. The hourly rate goes up by 10 per cent each year. Four children might be easier to manage, but it makes it a lot harder for the business.”

By Daniel Paperny