Childcare operators hit back
Viability of city facilities ‘under threat’
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.”
CARING ENVIRONMENT: Four-year-olds Evangeline Dealtry and Alfred Lever are enrolled in the kindergarten program at Eastwood Early Education.