Childcare fees low in region

SOME of Victoria’s most affordable childcare can be found at Ballarat’s own back door.

The Daylesford, Ballan and Creswick areas have some of the state’s most affordable childcare compared with metropolitan areas, with parents spending just less than five per cent of their disposable income on childcare, according to a recent study. 

On average, parents spend 4.9 per cent of their disposable income on childcare, compared with nine per cent in inner city Melbourne, the University of Canberra’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling study found. 

Creswick Childcare Centre director Stacey Forrester said the centre needed to keep fees competitive to attract parents. 

“(In Melbourne) there’s more of a monopoly,” Ms Forrester said.

“They can charge what they like because there’s always going to be demand.” 

The research also found childcare fees had risen 150 per cent in the past decade. 

Ms Forrester said this came from a change in direction for the sector, as well as increased running costs. 

“We have to pay more in wages, because now children are not just being minded, they’re being given an education from an early age. That means more qualified

staff and higher wages.”

While childcare was generally more expensive in cities than in rural areas, mining towns were the priciest of all, with parents in the Kimberly forking out 11.3 per cent of their disposable income. 

The cost varies around the region, with Ballarat families paying around $100 a day, $25 more than the national average.

Childcare centres in town also have longer waiting lists for enrolment. 

Fees are heavily subsidised by the federal government, which covers at least 50 per cent, and more for families who pass the income test.

The study included all children from the age of six months to primary school age, and found that 630,000 Australian families had at least one child in formal care. This is a 70 per cent increase since 1996.

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