No after school care -®
Can't get into out of school hours care?

You're not alone. We have some alternatives

Out of School Hours Care is a hot topic right now with an acute on-going shortage and with parents having to actually "pitch" for places.

Yes it's sad but true that child care only gets harder the older they get. Gone are the nice long days at child care. Suddenly the days are super short and you have to worry about what to do with them before and after school. Employers can only be so flexible and turning up at 9.30 and leaving at 2.30 is most likely not going to be acceptable to most companies.

Australia is in acute Out Of School Care Crisis. There simply aren't enough places for working parents with children in school who need to drop off early and pick up late. Our own survey revealed over half of working parents use or intend to use out of school care.

However 31 per cent were unable to get a place at the beginning of the school year and 18 per cent were still waiting for a place after the first term.

Last year some Out Of School Hours Care (before and after school, aka "OOSH") centres started to ask parents for proof of employment to give priority to those who are working, rather than to those who use the centres for personal convenience or to juggle their different children's after school activities. With the number of households where both parents are working full time on the increase, there simply aren't enough OOSH places.

Out Of School Hours Care (before and after school) is generally offered by centres on the premises or nearby to the school. Centres in populated areas with high demand have always urged parents to enrol their children at the earliest opportunity, even if they think you're only going to need it on a casual basis. Parents are usually urged to enroll kids when they attend their orientation days the term before starting school properly.

OOSH centres are hugely popular, because they're generally on-site, they're relatively cheap, well run and qualify for the child care rebate. They often also offer Vacation Care.

Registration is pretty simple, providing immunization, passport, address and CRN number plus emergency contacts etc. And once you're in it's fairly easy to keep your place as long as you remember to resign at the end of every year for the following one.

However getting that elusive place in the first place seems to be the difficulty. Figures collected by the P&C council for some north shore Sydney schools last year showed after-school care providers linked to schools such as Willoughby, Artarmon and Chatswood have places for fewer than 10 per cent of students in an area where it's likely that around half of the parents are both working full time.

The demand in these suburban areas is such that some OOSH centres are already taking applications for 2018 school year and while focus is often put on parents with pre-school children and lack of long day care places, actually the issue of what to do with school age children when no care is available is just as pressing, if not more so.

One parent quoted in the recent SMH article said: "I just assumed that once your children were in school it was another service that was available," she said. "Everyone you speak to worries. They don't want to lose their jobs. They've got bills to pay. I've heard of people breaking down and crying."

Parents, local representatives and OOSH centres themselves are calling for Federal action. But in the meantime, first rule must be to get your child's name down as early as humanly possible and don't forget to reregister before the end of the school year for the following one. If you don't you may lose your place.

If you are in the situation where your child is already in school or going next year and you haven't got a place, here are some alternatives you could consider:
  1. AU PAIRS. Many of the au pair agencies say they are still looking for host families, which is unusual for this time of year but there is a surplus of willing au pairs ready to help out. This could be a great option, particularly if parents buddy up and share an au pair. Only one of you needs to have the extra bedroom, but all can chip in for the cost of bed, board and pocket money.
  2. NANNIES. If the cost is too much to bear for one family, you can nanny share to lessen the financial responsibility. Nannies' responsibilities and requirements can be tailored too, as long as hours and requirements, number of children/families etc are agreed up front and written into their contract. Don't be afraid to ask an agency for someone who can be a bit more flexible or to outline your ideal scenario.
  3. OLDER SCHOOL KIDS. Many older school children also look after younger ones after school. Teenagers need pocket money and are often happy to pick up and mind younger kids on days where they don't have their own after school activities.
  4. GRANDPARENTS & OTHER FAMILY. You might not want to burden them with full day care but many family members would be happy to help out before or after school, at least for a few days a week. It gives them bonding time with the kids, gives them a sense of helping out their family without having to shoulder full time responsibility.
  5. FRIENDS & NEIGHBOURS - Don't be afraid to bring up the possibility of sharing before and after school care with your friends and neighbours who have kids at the same school. This is often a great way to get around the problem, particularly if you can organise some sort of part time, home days or flexible working arrangement with your respective employers which means that between you, you can cover the week.
  6. FAMILY DAY CARE - some family day care centres are happy to take your child on a before and after school care arrangement and will do the drop off and pick up to a local school.
For more information on Out of School Hours Care, click here and to find out of school hours care near your school or check your school has one, click here and pop in your postcode in the search criteria.

The Productivity Commission has been looking into how to make Out of School Hours Care work better for parents and one of the recommendations is to bring OOSH care under the jurisdiction of primary school principals, meaning that they will be responsible for the provision of OOSH within their school grounds.

This addresses the feeling that there needs to be more of a relationship between OOSH care and the school itself. Often they have absolutely nothing to do with each other and so the plight of working parents at the end of the school day goes largely unnoticed/unaddressed by the school itself.

We'd like to know what you think about this and if you believe school principals should be responsible for Out of School Hours facilities. Leave a comment below.

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