Pricing parents out of childcare

A PRICE hike at a council-run day care centre in Byron Bay has left many parents struggling to keep their children in care and raised fears the centre may be sold or closed.

As part of Byron Shire Council's latest budget belt-tightening measures, parents at the Sandhills Childhood Centre are now being slugged $82 a day for long day care for children under three, and $76 a day for over threes – an increase of $8 a day and $7 a day respectively.

This means Sandhills now costs between $50 and $80 a week more than privately run competitors in the town.

However, parents say the quality of care is so good, they would rather reduce their children's days rather than pull them out altogether.

“It's a big increase, but it's an excellent centre. If council ever considered shutting it down it would be a big loss,” said mum-of-two Samantha Capon.

The council-run childcare centre enjoys an enviable reputation due to its staff and programs, provision of food – including a daily hot meal – organic nappies, and hats and sun block for three to five year olds.

But with a projected $96,000 loss this financial year, the council has lifted fees to make it “cost neutral”.

Byron Shire general manager Graeme Faulkner said the increased running costs were partly due to last year's introduction of the National Quality Framework, which required improved child to staff ratios and staff qualifications.

He said council was currently reviewing its community services, including different models for the provision of services such as child care, with a report to be presented to council in November.

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