KeepHealthCare.ORG – ‘Massive’ oversupply of childcare in Perth blamed for rising fees
Perth is experiencing a “massive oversupply” of childcare places which is forcing some centres to increase their fees in an attempt to recover costs, according to the State’s peak industry group.
Families are being urged to look within a 10km to 15km radius of their home or work to find a childcare spot, as some centres grapple with waitlists but others with plenty of vacancies.
The number of childcare centres in Perth increased 7.5 per cent from 884 to 951 between 2015 and this year, WA Department of Communities figures show.
According to the Federal Government’s MyChild website, 52 of 64 long daycare centres within a 5km radius of the Perth CBD had vacancies in the zero to two years old age group.
Within a 25km radius, 254 of 332 centres — or about 76 per cent — were listed as having vacancies.
The WA branch of the Australian Childcare Alliance has called for current and historical supply and demand childcare data to be collated and published to help identify areas of need and oversupply.
“There are suburbs in the metropolitan area where oversupply of centres is becoming a significant issue,” ACA WA spokeswoman Rachelle Tucker said.
“There is the perception that this will lead to lower fees for parents, but in fact this is not the case.
“We are seeing centres that have low occupancy increase their in fees as operators attempt to recover their costs.”
Mrs Tucker said that while there were generally fewer vacancies in the 0-2 age group, reported waitlists were often inaccurate because many families did not notify centres when they had found a place elsewhere.
“I always encourage families to look within a 10-15km radius as there will be a great deal of choice around them,” she said. “We have many families that attend services that are not closest to their home or work but not far away.”
Six childcare centre applications are currently being considered by WA’s Development Assessment Panels. A spokesman for the Department of Planning said eight applications were approved last year.
Todd Dawson, State manager of Goodstart Early Learning which has 51 centres in WA, said the State was the “most challenging market nationally”.
“We are still in a very, very challenging market because of the economic factors … at play,” he said. “That has led to there being more capacity in our network to take more children into our services than historically we’ve had.”
Mr Dawson said there were childcare shortages from Fremantle through the western suburbs into the city, but outside that area there was capacity. “There is almost unabated ability for new entrants to come into the market — that’s a real concern,” he said.
Mr Dawson wanted the State Government’s EduCare policy to establish a childcare centre at every new school to also include existing schools. This would allow private operators to open in suburbs where child care was needed but where land was at a premium.
Education Minister Sue Ellery said she was committed to working with existing schools to open up opportunities for more child care.
“Our EduCare policy is about making life easier for busier families, supporting working parents trying to balance work and family responsibilities,” she said.
Brett Thomson, commercial manager of School of Early Learning centres in North Fremantle, Nedlands, Subiaco and West Leederville, said there were vacancies in all of his centres.
“I’m a great advocate of having information available to everyone who is considering developing or approving a new early learning centre,” he said. “This includes local and State government, developers and early learning sector.
“Everyone is currently running blind. There is growing oversupply of early learning centres in the metropolitan area — it hasn’t been overnight but it’s growing every day.”