The cost of childcare has been a definite bone of contention in Canberra over the past decade, with many parents blaming childcare centres for jacking up the price in order to make higher profits.
However, there is an undeniable link between increasing childcare costs and tougher legislative restrictions on childcare operations, requiring centres to have more qualified staff, lower child-staff ratios, more stringent food health guidelines, and other amendments that affect the industry in general.
With so many parents wondering where their money actually goes when they pay the childcare bill at the end of a fortnight, The RiotACT chatted with Rebecca Sleeman, Director of Artemis Early Learning, to find out more.
“Running a childcare centre successfully is definitely driven more by a long term vocational commitment than immediate commercial factors,” she says. “Staff costs account for 65-70% of our fees. All educators working in a childcare centre must now have appropriate qualifications to be working with children preschool age and under. Some centres, like ours, actively seek out educators with significant early childhood experience and qualifications, which means we often pay a premium to attract exceptional staff.
“All childcare centres are also required to have more staff than they had a decade ago, because legislation now states that there must be at least one educator for every four children under two years old, one educator for every five children aged 24-36 months, and one educator for every 11 children aged 36 months to preschool age.
“When you account for the fact that all staff in childcare centres, such as Artemis, are permanent employees rather than casuals or contractors, and thus eligible for all of the benefits permanent employment provides, it’s a costly exercise to operate a centre with significant capacity.”
Rebecca notes that another major cost is rent, which is ever-escalating in the ACT, and accounts for around 15 cents of every dollar of fees.
“Other costs depend on the level of service the childcare centres provides. For example, at Artemis we provide all nappies, meals and snacks for the children throughout the day. Some days we can go through seven nappies per child. We have a qualified in-house cook that prepares wholesome, fresh meals, with the flexibility to cater for allergies and intolerances. We also provide additional activities such as excursions and incursions that broaden children’s experiences and skills. Of course, not all centres offer these services, but most parents understand and appreciate that these extra factors justify higher fees.”
Rebecca is grateful for government support that helps to subsidise the cost of childcare for parents, and expects the further changes to the childcare rebate system will provide more effective and targeted support to those who need it most.
“When you consider that most childcare centres across Canberra – from not-for-profits to the higher end centres – are all operating at pretty similar daily fees (depending on the level of service they provide), it’s clear that childcare centres are not setting out to gouge parents. The fees are what we need to charge to stay in business and continue to give parents access to quality care.”
For more information about Artemis Early Learning, please visit Artemis Early Learning or call 02 6239 3927.
This is a sponsored article, though all opinions are the author’s own. For more information on paid content, see our sponsored content policy.