Horsham council pushes to address childcare shortage as parents wait years for placements
There are weeks when Jasmine Weatherington feels she has to choose between her son and the people with disabilities she helps.
Key points: A 2022 study found that at least 300 children in the region were on waiting lists for day care. day care placements at Horsham’s Kalkee Road facility
She is mum to 15-month-old Heath and the National Disability Insurance Scheme support co-ordinator at Grampians Community Health.
Ms Weatherington is finding it difficult to age and work to the best of her ability due to the acute shortage of long day care in her home town of Horsham.
“As a parent you want to spend as much time as possible with your child, but I’m a single parent and rent is high,” she says.
“The house I’m in is pretty reasonably priced compared to other people in the area, but it’s still not cheap, and it’s not a choice whether I work or not – it’s not 30 years ago.
“If I were to stay at home on single parent benefits, it’s not enough to pay the bills.”
In November, after maternity leave, Ms Weatherington returned to work at Grampians Community Health for two days a week, but soon added an extra day.
“My client load has increased and we need to be able to take on those clients,” she said.
“So I’m at a point now where I have to go back for five days. I can’t do that because there’s no childcare.
“If I could, it would be three or four days that Heath would be in long day care every week.
“I’m a parent, but I’ve built a career that I enjoy and want to continue doing.
“It’s just disappointing that I feel like I can’t pursue it and I have to stay at home because there isn’t the option of daycare.”
Heath has been on five childcare waiting lists since birth and is looked after by his grandmothers for a few days a week.
Ms Weatherington began researching private care options she discovered via Facebook.
More childcare workers and early education workers will be needed in the future. (AAP) The bigger problem
Regional Australia has struggled with childcare shortages for years.
A 2022 Wimmera Development Association report found there were more than 2,500 children under four in the region, of whom at least 300 were on waiting lists for day care.
The study found the region had 34 people working in the field and needed at least 50 more to accommodate the children waiting for placements.
“Ninety-seven families across the Wimmera-South Mallee provided input,” the authors wrote.
“About 65 percent of those surveyed said they needed between 10 and 30 hours of childcare to return to work, increase their work hours or work in a higher-skilled position.
“We know that there is also a demand in areas where child care does not exist and there is no waiting list to join.”
The Kalkee Road Hub provides nursery and maternal and child health services, as well as immunization and early intervention. (ABC Wimmera: Alexander Darling) The possible solution
At its meeting on Monday night, Horsham Rural City Council agreed to seek expressions of interest from providers to care for 93 children at its Kalkee Road Children’s and Community Centre.
Emerge Early Learning Services provides a pre-school service at the council-owned facility.
The meeting heard Emerge secured about $2 million in government funding to move into two new buildings on Rasmussen Road by 2024.
Mayor Robyn Gulline said this would give the council the ability to offer the Kalkee Road site to a long-term day care provider.
Councilor Les Power, a police officer, said the lack of care was hampering recruitment in Horsham.
“The first, second or third thing that comes up is, ‘We tried to find childcare, but there’s no childcare available,'” he said.
Mr Power said he was “really pleased” that the area’s childcare capacity looked set to expand.
“We’re getting bigger as a community,” he said.
“But part of that is looking after our citizens who want to work and have children at the same time.”
Ms Weatherington said 93 extra places would be a “fantastic” help, but more would be needed to solve the problem in Horsham.
She expects that many more mothers will ask for support from family members and look for alternative solutions on social media.
“That would be great and I’d jump on it straight away, but some people have been waiting longer than me – up to three years for day care in Horsham,” she said.
“We need more than just that.”
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