New figures show that thousands of New South Wales families are unable to get after-school care for their children – with warnings that situation is set to get worse.
One of the sector’s peak body Network of Community Activities has released new figures that show up to 2,000 students a week are missing out on after-school care, due to a lack of available places.
The areas with the longest waiting list are in metropolitan Sydney: the inner west, north shore, western Sydney, the Hills District, Sutherland Shire and parts of the eastern suburbs.
However, regional areas are also experiencing shortages, including in parts of the Hunter, Riverina and in the north of the state.
Many parents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the system, with some families facing up to a two-year waiting list for a place.
“We both work full-time, so at the moment we’re just juggling to pick up the child when school ends,” one parent told the ABC in a recent interview. “At the moment we’re juggling between having one or the other of us home at three or using parents and parents-in-law to look after our kids after school.”
With new schools being built without after-school care facilities attached, the peak body for out-of hours school is concerned the problem will continue to escalate.
Robyn Monro Miller, Chief Executive of the Network of Community Activities, told the ABC, it was common sense to factor in after-school care into new development planning.
“We have new schools coming online and the Department of Education does need to make sure that in their planning for these new schools that we actually have out-of-school-hours services and space for those services in that school plan,” she said. “In most cases that’s not happening. There is a huge school coming online in Parramatta and we’re hoping that they will consider … that part of bringing that school on board is about having an out-of-school-hours service.”
In the meantime some councils are taking after-school care provision into their own hands. Leichhardt Council, in Sydney’s inner west is in the process of setting up after-school care centres to assist families in the area.
Mayor Darcy Byrne said public buildings were often being ignored as potential childcare sites.
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“Town halls and community centres across the state are under utilised … that’s why we’ve invented this policy and I think it would be great to see other local governments come on board and for the State Government to provide financial incentives to make use of these sort of facilities.”