Queensland’s working parents are facing a nightmare about what to do with their kids before and after school, with a massive shortage of after-school care places in Brisbane.
Sophie Harrington thought she was getting in early when she put her son Hugo’s name down on a waiting list for after-school care 12 months ago.
The five-year-old starts prep on Monday, but still does not have an after-school care place.
“He was No.101 on the waitlist when I enrolled him in January last year,” Ms Harrington said.
“I thought 12 months ahead of schedule might be enough time to get him in, but it turns out we don’t have any hope in the foreseeable future that he will have a permanent place.”
Their school in inner-Brisbane has just expanded to cater for the growing number of families in the local catchment, but she said the capacity of the outside school hours care had not increased.
“You almost need to book them in nowadays before they’re even born, when they’re in the womb,” she said.
“I had no idea I should have booked him into after-school care at the same time when I enrolled him in day care – it was a massive blow.”
Parents ‘stressed out’ at home and work
Families lobby group The ParentHood said the issue was peaking in Brisbane right now.
“We’ve seen in The ParentHood community a number of parents being shocked they haven’t been able to get that spot,” The ParentHood executive director Jo Briskey said.
“They [parents] are really scrambling, really stressed out, at the start of the school year not knowing what they’re going to be able to do to meet work responsibilities, as well as ensuring their kids are looked after.”
The group has launched a campaign to tackle the shortage, and is urging parents to complete a survey to gauge the extent of the problem.
Ms Briskey is calling on the Queensland government to make access to outside school hours care a major priority.
“The infrastructure to support those kids before and after school has not kept pace both with enrolment and the increase of women, in particular, participating in the workforce,” she said.
Ms Briskey said some families were resorting to hiring nannies.
“Nannies is an extremely expensive option for families that often isn’t eligible for government support or government subsidies,” she said.
“It’s going to be too expensive for too many families and the result will be mum having to stay home and not being able to go back to work.”
Grandparents under ‘incredible amount of pressure’
Ms Harrington said she was relatively lucky her parents were willing and able to help.
“My parents feel an incredible amount of pressure and responsibility because they can’t just freely go on holidays, which is what they should be able to do now that they’re retired, because at three o’clock, they’ve got to be waiting to be picking up my eldest from school,” Ms Harrington said.
She had given up on her elder son ever getting into after-school care, but hoped she would get a place by the time her two-year-old reaches school age.
“I’ve obviously got no hope with Hugo – probably for the entire time he is at primary school, I’m not going to get him in,” she said.
“But I took the initiative and I’ve enrolled our toddler in before and after-school care, so hopefully in three years’ time we might have a chance – it’s extreme.”