New South Wales working parents are facing an after-school care crisis, some struggling to find any after-school placements at all.
Some Sydney suburbs have had enrolment requests tripled, without any additional after-school care places being made available to cope with the increase in demand.
In a recent interview with ABC News, Scarlett Patterson, shared that she would like to go back to work full-time, but has been unable to find any care for her three school-aged daughters.
“How can I start a new job when I don’t even know where I will leave my children and who picks them up?” she said. “I’m not going to be able to get another job where I can start at 10:00am and finish at 2:00pm, not anything that can pay my bills.”
The waiting list alone for after-school care at her daughter’s school in inner-city Leichhardt is currently at least 18 months long.
“When my oldest daughter started, there were half of the amount of children we have now and nobody allowed for the fact that the inner-west is growing and more and more people come and so more and more children come,” she said.
In response to the ever-growing need for after-school care and growing crisis, Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne has formed the After-School Care Alliance. This group has charged itself with the mission to find solutions to the problem.
“The State Government has a 1950s attitude to after-school care,” Councillor Byrne told the ABC. “The modern reality in the inner-west of Sydney is that, in most families, both parents have to work in order to pay the mortgage and rent costs, and that means that after-school care is not a luxury but a necessity.”
As a practical initial solution, Leichhardt Council itself has provided the use of three council buildings dedicated to after-school care services. This solution would provide an additional 100 places to ease the immediate pressure on already struggling services in the area.
But Councillor Byrne said the council was still waiting for approval from the NSW Government.
“Term one is starting and hundreds of local parents have been left in uncertainty about whether these new places will be available,” he said. “The State Government has had its head in the sand about the growing after-school care crisis in the inner west.
“We’ve been warning them for years that this was coming and now it’s hit.”
The NSW Department of Education reported to the ABC, that it was working closely with Leichhardt Council on its application, “so approval can be given as soon as possible”.