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Shift workers driving family day care growth

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Power, Lisa
Publication Date: 
4 Sep 2012



She has helped to lovingly raise 340 children over a 37-year career but working parents are desperate for more carers like Julia Reynolds.

Record levels of Australian children are now in enrolled in childcare and demand has seen the number of children in Family Day Care and in-home care swell to 115,660 - a rise of 7% over the last year.

Family Day Care Australia said an increase in parents needing care outside standard hours and the changing nature of modern work were linked to rising enrolments.

"Gone are the days of the standard 9 to 5 work day,'' said Carla Northam, head of FDCA.

"With more and more parents working shift work on weekends and after hours, family day care has become a preferred option because it offers families more flexibility in a quality and nurturing setting.

"Demand is increasing and many of the Family Day Care centre co-ordination units have lengthy waiting lists. We are seeing this in rural, regional and metropolitan areas.''

A study by consumer group Choice also found family day care is the most affordable option, with an average daily cost of $57 compared to long day care rates of $80.

Mrs Reynolds first opened her Hornsby service in 1974, earning 5c an hour.

Today the award-winning carer is back studying for her Diploma in Children's Services to add to her qualifications, squeezing in the study between caring for nine children.

"The children make me laugh and make me happy,'' the 63-year-old said.

"It keeps me on my toes as I am always thinking about what I can do next to make them happy.

"I am hoping it will help prevent me getting dementia.''

The grandmother of three works a three-day week, caring for five children between 7am and 6pm. She has previously offered overnight and weekend care.

"You need to accommodate people who work shift work and need to get to the city. It is a huge problem for people. To get to the city they have to drop their kids off by 7am,'' she said.

"That is what family day care is about, it is extremely flexible.''

Currently 12% of FDC educators offer overnight care. Another 14.4% provide weekend services.

A report on the state of Australian child care released by the Federal Government found a record number of children (992,520) were in approved care in the September quarter last year, a rise of 9%.

Long day care remains the most used option (61.2%) while outside school care was used by 29.5%.

The estimated price tag of care was $1.05 billion in rebates and benefits.

Early Childhood Australia said parents wanted high quality childcare.

"There are three issues that all families care about - quality, affordability and suitability,'' said Samantha Page, who heads ECA, which advocates on early childhood issues.

"We did a survey of parents recently and 81% said quality was particularly important. Parents have really picked up on messages about the importance of the early years and about how much brain development happens in the first five years.

"Quality, affordability and suitability are like the holy trilogy and parents are trying to balance those.''

Ms Northam said FDCA was working with their co-ordination units to recruit more early childhood educators.

-reprinted from the Daily Telegraph

Entered Date: 
5 Sep 2012
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