Working parents across the country are enduring an unprecedented childcare catastrophe, with many struggling with eleventh hour communication of centres being full.
Extreme shortages of childcare staff – one of many devastating side effects of the Covid pandemic – is all but crippling parents of preschool-aged children.
The problem has been well documented by parents in recent months. They have reported being delivered the surprise news the morning of their child’s planned day at childcare that the centre does not have the capacity to take them in.
A frustrated mum this week shared the “awful situation” at her child’s childcare centre to Facebook.
She said not only did management ask that parents didn’t bring their children in because of staffing problems, but also often informed parents the night before of strict capacity limits for the following day.
The mum said on Monday, the day she was meant to start a new job, she received a message late the night beforehand saying “numbers would need to be reduced by four [children] if they could not get a casual”.
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“Fortunately they were able to get a casual but this rigmarole happens almost weekly now,” she explained in a post.
In an effort to secure her son care for the day a few weeks ago, she took him to the centre “super early to beat the other parents because we simply had no option”.
The centre, in response, dispersed messages telling parents not to bring any children until after 9am “due to lack of staff”.
“So we waited and aimed to get our child there on the dot at 9am and as my husband was walking him there, we got a message to say they had reached the cap,” the mum recalled.
With no other option, her husband had to stay home from work and looked after their son.
She said other parents were just as frustrated at the situation and it seemed there was little reprieve in sight, given the centre had warned it would only be getting worse.
Uncertainty surrounding daily childcare in the wake of the pandemic was a familiar problem to the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA), which has made a series of submissions to the federal government for help.
Too many centres, not enough staff
“This is very much a post-Covid problem, and also to do with the number of new centres being built,” ACA treasurer Kerry Mahony told news.com.au.
“It is making it much more difficult to recruit and find staff to keep numbers up.”
The organisation has called on the government to support a boost in childcare staff through training, traineeships, and reviewing retention factors like wages and salaries.
Mr Mahony revealed ACA had partaken in a “few negotiations” with the government, which had so far been productive.
He argued childcare centres, in some instances, were being erected in areas that were already well serviced, which exacerbated staffing problems.
“It puts a lot of pressure on the existing staff,” he said.
Parents, in the meantime, are at their wits’ end.
Another mum said the problem was “getting beyond frustrating” in a comment to the mum’s post.
“It makes the juggle even harder than it should be,” she said.
Some said the widespread problem had also been difficult on staff.
“This issue is widespread. It has nothing to do with the centre being big or small, high or low occupancy, or staff who have been there a short time vs a long time. It is just impossible to get staff,” one revealed.
“It’s a terrible situation for everyone. But especially for the workers just doing their best.”