Parents feel the pinch as childcare squeezed by new federal laws

But it's "for their own good", of course. One size fits all, don't you know?

This will just lead to more informal childcare -- e.g. where some lady looks after a few neighbourhood kids in her own home -- with none of the safeguards of the formal sector

That happened in Britain so they passed draconian laws about informal childcare -- but they had to back down because it criminalized friends looking after another friend's kids

PARENTS face a tougher fight for childcare places - and a bigger bill when they find a centre - as tough new federal laws squeeze 8400 places from the system. The cost of child care will rise by up to $13 a day per child as rules requiring an increased staff-to-child ratio are enforced.

Federal Government figures show a quarter of Queensland children are in childcare, with more than 155,000 children from 120,000 families in long day care at childcare centres.

Childcare Queensland says centres across Queensland will close as increased staff ratios, soaring power bills and fears of a massive 30 per cent wage claim force an already stressed sector close to the brink.

Childcare Queensland says the new regulations alone, the first phase of which started in January, will cost the state 8400 places.

President Peter Price said the average price of long day care in Queensland was between $60 and $80 a day, but that would go up under the new laws that require more staff to children and university degrees for some positions. [How absurd! Will you have to have a degree to become a mother soon?]

While changes to ratios that were causing massive spikes in fees down south would not affect Queensland for another two years, he said centres were already having to put on extra staff to cover paperwork and training.

Mr Price said the industry had no problem with raising standards but said the contradiction with existing minimum room sizes and the required floor space per child means fewer places will be available in existing centres.

Industry research tips childcare costs will rise by $13 a child per day, which will create an exodus of families from already struggling centres in areas like the Sunshine and Gold coasts, as well as in Brisbane's eastern suburbs.

Mr Price said a survey of centres shows those around Caboolture, Wide Bay and Cairns are already at risk of falling through the 70 per cent occupancy level, which is break-even, and could dip in to the red under any other stress.

He said some centres on the Sunshine Coast were already half empty and parents would soon start feeling the pinch as more tried to organise their childcare after the school holidays. "It's happening now but there's still a lot more to come," Mr Price said of the cost increases. "For the average parent looking for a place, there are going to be less places available."

But C&K chief executive officer Barrie Elvish, whose community group operates centres across the state, said he did not expect any massive price rise. He said C&K centres had raised prices by $4 or $5 a day at the beginning of the year to cover rising bills but the ratio changes would not affect them.

Federal Child Care Minister Kate Ellis said children deserved the best start in life. "All of the research shows us that the first five years of a child's life are critical to shaping future outcomes and will play a major role in their long-term health, education and development," she said.

"With record numbers of families using childcare in Queensland and across the country, it is essential that we ensure that children in care are getting the quality early educational opportunities that they need.

"That is why the rest of the world is acting and it is why the Commonwealth and every state and territory government, of all political persuasions, have agreed that the National Quality Framework is the best way forward for Australian families.

"These reforms are being introduced gradually, over a number of years so that the sector has time to adjust. "The only changes that have come into effect in 2012 are a ratio requirement of one staff member for every four children aged under two as is already the case in Queensland and a harmonisation of national regulations....

Tewantin Early Learning Centre owner John Keast said private operators were under pressure from rising utilities and red tape.

He said he would like to be able to provide healthy fruit as a snack to his kids, but he can't without complicated and expensive licensing. "We can't supply fruit to our children, but if they bring it in, we can cut it up and serve it to them," he said. "It's ridiculous."

He said his two Sunshine Coast centres turned a profit but there were plenty of others that were badly stretched and at risk of folding.


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