Parents rort childcare system
CHILDCARE centres across Bundaberg have been left financially high and dry by parents not keeping up with payments, with many cases ending up at debt collection agencies.
“There's a big problem in the industry,” Early Years Education and Childcare Centre assistant director Kristy Ramsay said.
“Parents can float from centre to centre getting free childcare.”
Ms Ramsay said Bundaberg parents have taken advantage of the situation.
Ms Ramsay said a lack of legislation and registration of offenders in Queensland, leaves childcare businesses with numerous debts and no choice but to take the matter up with debt collection agencies.
She said Early Years had to appoint a debt collection agency to look after 29 families' cases last year, usually anywhere between $200 and $1000, with the biggest debt being $1500.
Eastside Little Learners Child Care Centre licensee Caroline Ramsay has also experienced the same issues and agrees it is a “big problem”.
Mrs Ramsay said the debts “totally vary,” from $70 to $600, with the largest being “at least $1000”.
While Mrs Ramsay said there are always parents who do the right thing, she said other people move from centre to centre, or even out of town without paying their debts.
“It's on on-going problem - in our centre we should have 105 children every day, so 200 families - that's a large number of people to chase up every week,” she said.
“Childcare seems to actually be at the bottom of people's (priority) list - people don't take it seriously.”
City Y Child Care YMCA Centre childcare co-ordinator Julie Whalley said their centre has a strict fee policy to avoid such problems.
“As soon as they fall two weeks in arrears we cancel them,” Ms Whalley said.
“I will talk with parents to negotiate, and depending on the situation I'm happy to give a week's grace, but childcare centres need to have their own policy set up and abide by it.
“We've got staff to pay as well.”
She said when children are enrolled the fee policy is discussed clearly, but a national or state-wide register for people who do not pay their fees would be beneficial.
“It would be good to have some type of register (of offenders) though - at least then you can check,” she said.
Ms Whalley was not the only one calling for a register.
“It would be fantastic - it would save us a lot of money and time,” Kristy Ramsay said.
Member for Bundaberg Jack Dempsey stressed the importance of maintaining childcare facilities.
“(Childcare is) really needed - we've got to make sure people don't do things that could cause the closure of these facilities,” Mr Dempsey said.
No state or commonwealth government agency could verify if there was currently any legislation in place to protect childcare centres.