Australian parents are struggling with the current childcare system, according to new survey results.

A new national survey by Daycare Decisions has revealed parents’ biggest challenges in securing a childcare place, with lack of information and scarcity of places topping the list.

Daycare Decisions founder Rebecca McIntosh says finding a child care place was a time-consuming and stressful process for most parents.

“The pressure on parents to secure a place before returning to work is of great anxiety to many parents, and some even have to delay their return in order to secure care.

“In addition to highlighting their key pain-points, the survey allowed parents to provide a wide range of comments and suggestions for improving the process,” she says.

Some of these ideas included integrating childcare into schools, government funding to support employers to provide childcare service and the introduction of flexible hour schemes that would offer more options for shift workers.

“Parents also suggested opening up the system to include nannies and au pairs under approved care,” McIntosh says.

The Australian Government’s Productivity Commission Review of Childcare is the first enquiry into the topic since the 90s. Since this time, both the number of children in childcare has increased substantially alongside the women’s labour participation rate.

Kirsty George is a mother of two kids from Oxley who has experienced two lengthy waits for securing childcare places.

She says she was utterly shocked when a nurse suggested arranging childcare early in her pregnancy.

“I said ‘Oh my god, I’m only 11 weeks pregnant, no, surely not yet?’, but she was adamant I put my name down for childcare waitlists.

“I had my son Harry on five different centre waiting lists before I was even five-months pregnant and it wasn’t until he was seven-months-old that I heard back from one,” she says.

When Kirsty fell pregnant again with her second child she started applying for waitlists a lot earlier, but still didn’t secure a place for her daughter Matilda until she was nine-months-old.

“I called one centre and they said I was 69 on the list, which I thought was good for the size of the centre but they said that number was just for the baby room… some places I just never heard back from either,” she says.

Kirsty’s pain is also felt by her friends, with one mother receiving a call back from a centre when her child was four-years-old, after being on the list since the first few weeks of pregnancy.

“It’s frustrating, especially when you want to go back to work. But it’s the norm now and it’s the first advice I give to anyone now that is having children- Lock a space in early.

“I didn’t have the luxury of choosing a centre, it was purely pot luck. I’m just glad that the centre ended up being a great one,” she says.

She adds the communication between centres and those on the waitlists definitely need improvement; as most waitlists have joining costs and you never hear back from them.

The DayCare Decisions Survey asked 700 parents to report their top five most common pains when it comes to childcare:
1. Deciding and comparing childcares – Parents were dissatisfied at the level of information available online to help them choose and compare childcare.
2. Not knowing where you are on the list – Parents want more transparency when they are on a childcare waiting list to assist them in planning their return to work.
3. Researching the best type of care for your family – Parents new to childcare want to know about all the different types of care available.
4. Finding out about what other parents say about the childcare you are considering – Parents want to hear opinions from other parents and hear from their chosen centre’s users.
5. Visiting all the centres/homes – Parents in Brisbane waitlist their children on up to six child care centre lists, with larger capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne on up to 15.

Have you had issues with getting your child into childcare?