High fees and long waits
Arranging childcare for your baby or toddler can be hard enough emotionally when you plan to return to work; long waiting lists and a lack of choice in suitable care can add to the stress.
A survey by parent advocacy group The Parenthood has found that the shortage of available childcare places has resulted in some day care centres in high-demand areas like the inner city charging hefty fees to join the waiting list.
For example, The Parenthood found that:
- sixty percent of childcare centres in the in-demand suburb of Leichhardt, in Sydney's Inner West, charge a wait list fee, with fees ranging from $15 to $100 per child
- just two out of 23 centres in the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith charge waiting list fees (around $10 and $50).
And it doesn't end there: preschools, after and before school-care services and private schools often charge wait list fees too.
Read the Ts & Cs
NSW Fair Trading encourages parents to carefully read the terms and conditions of wait list fees which are, in many cases, non-refundable. Fair Trading has had one report of a parent having been charged more than $400 for a place on the wait list of a childcare service that never opened.
The Parenthood is campaigning to ban wait list fees.
Quality childcare and education, especially in the year before kids start school, is important. According to a recent report by the Productivity Commission, benefits include:
- better socialisation
- help with transition to school
- improved performance in the early years of primary school.
Wait list checklist
When it comes to childcare, there are many types of formal and informal options; beyond long day care centres. For example, family day care services, may offer much more affordable and very personalised care. Sharing a nanny with another family may be an option too.
If you do decide to sign up for a childcare centre wait list consider these points:
- Ask the centre how many children are already on their wait list and how likely it is that your child will be offered a place.
- Check if you're entitled for a refund if you aren't offered a childcare place after a set period.
- Check for any terms and conditions and make sure you get a receipt for the fees and the agreement in writing.
Ask if there's anything that can help your chances – for example, with many day care services it can help if you stay in contact and check regularly if a place has become available.
Some parents have told CHOICE that once your child is ready to start childcare, visiting centres in person can help you secure a place.
Read more CHOICE reports on childcare and education.