THE “no-vacancy” sign has already gone up at many childcare centres in Bathurst.
A shortage of long daycare for children aged up to five years is expected to continue this year, causing concern for working parents who have yet to secure places.
Industry sources believe most childcare centres in the city will be full by the end of this month.
Kelso West ABC Learning Centre has the resources to care for 70 children. Director Emma Forster said demand for childcare has increased in the past few months.
“We will be at capacity by the end of January,” Ms Forster said. “Most of the people I’ve spoken to within our industry are already full, or expecting to be from the beginning of February.”
Council-operated services have also felt the pinch. Both Scallywags and Little Scallywags are at capacity, though a council spokesman said parents were able to join a waiting list.
At Kelso West, the wait time for a place in the infant rooms is about 12 months.
Ms Forster said there were a handful of reasons for the city-wide shortage.
“With an increasing population and more families moving to the area, the demand has changed,” she said. “People are returning to work earlier than they used to.
“On top of that, I think parents are recognising the importance of early socialisation. They realise that childcare offers valuable opportunities for learning and development.”
With just two weeks until the school term begins, before and after school care for primary aged children is also filling fast.
The Eglinton OOSH (Out of School Hours) program offers vacation care, and before and after school care.
Though there are limited vacancies next week, co-ordinator Gina Prokop said busy times were on the horizon.
“We’re already fairly well booked out with the after-school program and, although we’re not completely booked before-school, it’s going to be very busy,” Ms Prokop said.
“We can accommodate 30 [primary-school-aged] children in the morning and 30 in the afternoon.”
Ms Prokop said vacation care demand had also been strong.
“We were very busy first week of vacation care in December,” she said. “We’re not yet completely full for our first week in January [from January 16], though we are booked out from the second week.”
In November, Bathurst Regional Council said it was in discuss-ions with a number of childcare providers looking to establish a presence in Bathurst, including a facility at Perthville.