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Childcare at capacity as government ups subsidies

A new government policy aims to ease the cost of living burden on low-income parents rejoining the workforce by increasing subsidies for childcare.
But in Wairarapa, even with the extra money, parents will struggle to find a place for their children as the region’s centres operate at total capacity.
The government’s $190 million policy, which would take effect April 2023, was announced by Jacinda Ardern at the Labour conference on Sunday.
10,000 children would become eligible for childcare support payments under the policy.
But Wairarapa has a serious shortage of teachers, so centres will struggle to provide services for more children.
Mel Allen, centre manager at Dot Kids Carterton, said the shortage of teachers was impacting the whole region.
“We’re currently at licensing capacity; we can’t take any more kids,” she said.
Allen said that increasing subsidies for parents would put pressure on centres to find staff.
“Our company has four provincial centres in Wairarapa, and three are looking for qualified teachers,” she said.
Good Beginnings Educare owner Nicola Burling said Wairarapa’s facilities have not kept up with the population boom.
“We’re chock-full here; we’ve got children booked in that aren’t even born,” Burling said.
Currently the government subsidises 6 hours of care per day, up to 20 hours a week.
Increasing subsidies will allow parents to extend the hours their children are in care each day, increasing flexibility for work.
However, while parents could extend the hours [for example, picking them up at 5pm instead of 3pm], most centres in Wairarapa could not have children for extra days due to the teacher shortage.
Melissa Hutchings, the owner of Carterton Preschool, said that some mums were unable to return to work because there were no spaces in preschools.
“This policy is amazing for families, but we just can’t take children on for extra days.
“Our centre lost three qualified teachers this year.
“An early childhood degree costs money, and what you get paid just isn’t enough,” Hutchings said.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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