Child­care oper­a­tors hit back

Vi­a­bil­ity of city fa­cil­i­ties ‘un­der threat’

The Chronicle - - NEWS - Matthew New­ton Matthew.New­ton@thechron­i­cle.com.au

TOOWOOMBA child­care oper­a­tors have hit back at claims of a large un­der sup­ply in the num­ber of child­care places avail­able in the city.

Aus­tralian Child­care So­lu­tions claimed in a re­cent devel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion for a new child­care cen­tre at 24A-28 James St there was a short­fall of about 1362 child­care places in Toowoomba.

East­wood Early Ed­u­ca­tion owner Katy Pa­ton, whose busi­ness is on the corner of Her­ries and Cur­zon Sts in East Toowoomba, said she thought the com­pany was “crazy” if those were the sta­tis­tics it was work­ing on.

“If they are will­ing to risk open­ing a new cen­tre where there are ser­vices al­ready strug­gling for vi­a­bil­ity, from an op­er­a­tions per­spec­tive they need to re-think it,” she said.

“I would re­ally ask the coun­cil to be con­sid­er­ate of the ex­ist­ing vi­a­bil­ity of places in Toowoomba that are al­ready strug­gling.”

The Aus­tralian Child­care Al­liance Queens­land - a mem­ber-funded or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing more than 700 long day-care ser­vices around the state said it had re­ceived “nu­mer­ous con­cerns” from child-care cen­tres in Toowoomba about ACS’ claims of a 1362 short­fall in child­care places in the city.

In a state­ment, the ACAQ said early re­sults from the 2016 ABS Cen­sus in­di­cated the pop­u­la­tion of chil­dren aged 0 to 4 in Queens­land

had de­clined since the 2011 Cen­sus, sug­gest­ing de­mand might not be as high as es­ti­mated.

ACAQ gen­eral man­ager Brent Stokes said that ac­cord­ing to his or­gan­i­sa­tion’s re­search, there was a 74.4% child­care cen­tre oc­cu­pancy in the Toowoomba re­gion, equat­ing to 25% or 686 places that were va­cant each day across Toowoomba.

A re­cent study con­ducted by Ur­ban Eco­nom­ics for the ACAQ found high lev­els of

fixed costs - pre­dom­i­nantly wages - meant child­care prices are rel­a­tively in­elas­tic and do not de­crease with in­creased sup­ply and com­pe­ti­tion.

Mrs Pa­ton said she was part of a net­work of lo­cal child­care oper­a­tors who met ev­ery two months to dis­cuss in­dus­try changes.

“The vi­a­bil­ity of our cen­tres is some­thing that comes up a lot,” she said.

She pointed to a num­ber of ap­proved child­care cen­tres near her own and

called on Toowoomba Re­gional Coun­cil to re­in­state a needs as­sess­ment as part of the devel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion as­sess­ment process.

The coun­cil’s plan­ning and devel­op­ment com­mit­tee chair Cr Chris Tait said if a devel­op­ment com­plied with the pa­ram­e­ters of the code, it would be ap­proved.

“We’re not mar­ket reg­u­la­tors,” he said.

“The mar­ket has to de­ter­mine what the de­mand is.”

PHOTO: KEVIN FARMER

CAR­ING EN­VI­RON­MENT: Four-year-olds Evan­ge­line Deal­try and Al­fred Lever are en­rolled in the kinder­garten pro­gram at East­wood Early Ed­u­ca­tion.

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