Areas hit hardest by childcare fee hikes

 

QUEENSLAND parents have been stung with some of the highest childcare price rises in the country, with fees skyrocketing by up to 22 per cent in just 12 months.

And it's families in the regions who have felt the brunt as 29 of the top 40 spots were taken out by the state's towns and suburbs.


While Brisbane's inner city has the highest average hourly fee of $10.66 - above the national average of $9.55 but cheaper than other capital cities - regional areas are closing in with huge price rises, including on the Granite Belt which had a 22.3 per cent increase to $9.25.

It was Australia's steepest rise, according to new Education Department figures for 2018, and it also put the drought-hit community in the top 15 most expensive suburbs in Queensland.

Wide Bay's Gympie - Cooloola (18.7% to $8.21) had the second steepest rise Australia-wide, and Wide Bay's Burnett (17.3% to $7.95) was in fourth.

Robina, Sandgate, Browns Plains, the Ipswich Hinterland, Bribie - Beachmere, Cairns south and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland were also in the top 13, all with price rises of more than 14 per cent.

Conversely, fees in the far north dropped by an average of 31 per cent to an average of just $5 an hour.

Costs fell too in the Central Highlands, Charters Towers, Ayr and Ingham, while Sunnybank was the most contained of the suburbs, recording a 1 per cent rise.

Outside Brisbane City, suburbs in the south and west are being slugged the most for childcare including Kenmore, Brookfield, Mogill, Holland Park, Yeronga and Carindale.

Experts have been unable to explain exactly why hourly costs have rocketed in some areas in the wake of the new Child Care Subsidy but not elsewhere.

Federal figures show Queensland had the highest increases in childcare costs last year.
Federal figures show Queensland had the highest increases in childcare costs last year.

But an Education Department spokesperson said out-of-pocket costs were down by 7.9 per cent since the new subsidy began, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index and Queensland rates were still among the lowest in the country.

The Parenthood spokeswoman Megan O'Connell said she hoped centres were reinvesting the in their centres and staff.

"The increases are tremendously hard on families because wages tend to be much lower in regional areas," she said.

"Families in regional areas are quite trapped with how they access childcare centres because they don't have that choice of services that you have in metro areas."

Early Childhood Alliance chief executive Sam Page said rent and staff wages drove fees upwards each year.

"But why some services can put their rates up by 1 per cent and one (area) is 22 per cent, we don't understand why," she said.

She said the structure of the new subsidy probably encouraged providers to increase fees towards the Commonwealth's $11.98-an-hour fee cap.

Over supply in some areas was also driving up costs as places with high vacancy rates charged to stay open, she said.

Australian National University economic and social researcher Ben Phillips agreed the reasons weren't clear.

"Possible explanations include some catch up in prices as Queensland is typically a lower cost state," she said.
Or centres could be offering shorter 10-hour days instead of 12-hour days, which skews the hourly rate in the statistics but doesn't mean affordability had worsened, he said.

The Government has commissioned an independent evaluation of the child care package led by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), with a final report due in 2021.

 

Beerwah mum Kasey-Rae Chambers with twin daughters Hallie and Harlow. Picture: Lachie Millard
Beerwah mum Kasey-Rae Chambers with twin daughters Hallie and Harlow. Picture: Lachie Millard

HIGH COSTS TAKE TOLL ON CAREERS OF PARENTS

PARENTS in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are forking out exorbitant amounts of money for childcare, with some giving up their career aspirations in order to pay it.

The region is facing a 14.5 per cent increase in the average fee per hour, causing parents to make drastic changes to their careers and home lives to care for their children.

Beerwah mother-of-two Kasey-Rae Chambers had to quit full-time work in favour of part-time work to save hundreds of dollars.

"I had to step down from full-time to part-time because if I was working full-time, I would have had to pay $500 plus a week for childcare," she said.

"It definitely did increase … it's harder for partnered or double-income families because they're expected to pay double. Simply by stepping down to part-time, I've dropped it back to $120 per week … that money is now money I've saved - it just wasn't financially viable."

With a career in the financial services industry, Ms Chambers said it has impacted on her work.

"At the end of the day, I want to work full-time and I have large career aspirations but I've had to put my career on hold," she said.

Ms Chambers said the increase is affecting the hinterland community.

"I've come across mums with newborns that can't work because they have to breastfeed one child and then they can't send the older ones to childcare because it costs $80 a day," she said.

"There's not enough support - the government has no idea what the living expenses are like, no one wins.

"The childcare educators are also not getting paid enough for what they do."