Kingston District Council has taken a large step forward in addressing the steadily growing demand for childcare services in its community.
Mayor Kay Rasheed said a recent survey showed that current childcare arrangements were far from adequate and in fact, the needs have escalated since the last survey was undertaken in mid-2019, with 61% of respondents saying the current service was not meeting their needs and 86% saying lack of care impacted on their ability to take up work or study.
“The lack of childcare placements has become a critical issue for our community, with parents unable to return to the workforce,” she said. “This is causing a compounding effect, with our businesses struggling to find enough employees to maintain existing operations, let alone expand to meet the growing demand for their services.”
Council chief executive Nat Traeger said council had workshopped the issue at an informal gathering last month. “Council acknowledged that childcare was its number one priority to address,” she said. “In response to this, the Kingston Early Learning and Childcare Services (KELCS) Working Group sought an urgent meeting with John Gardner, Minister for Education to discuss the problem.”
Ms Traeger said the group, which comprises members of the public, council staff, Mayor, chief executive and elected members, had been advocating to improve childcare services since 2017. “It was therefore pleasing that Minister Gardner’s response was swift, with him agreeing to meet representatives at Parliament House on May 26,” she said.
KELCS Chairperson Kirsty Starling said the meeting was positive, with Minister Gardner “acknowledging the significance of the problem for our community”. “In a crucial move forward, the Minister offered to provide funding to engage a suitable consultant to develop a business case for childcare in Kingston,” she said. “This project will see further investigation and assessment of the need for childcare services, as well as identify operational requirements, including costs to build on Department of Education Land.
Council will take the lead in the project, finalising the terms of reference for the project and engaging an appropriate consultant.