A new report from the Mitchell Institute for Education and and Health Policy at Victoria University has found that Daylesford is in a childcare desert  – this is areas where there is less than 1 place for every three eligible children. In fact, on average there are over 6 children for every place in the Daylesford, Creswick, Ballan area and 86 percent of the population is in a childcare desert.

This means that it is tougher to find child care in these areas than most other places in Victoria.

Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are growing communities with young families and a significant shortage of workers, particularly in hospitality. Lack of affordable childcare makes it harder, particularly for women, to participate in the workforce when they want to.

Unlike schools and health services, child care is not universally available, nor is it affordable for everyone who needs it.

Locally it is almost impossible to get child care for babies and under two year olds. For older children there is little chance of getting a place for five days a week if you are working. Daylesford Community Childcare has no places for babies until at least the end of this year.

Childcare providers are finding it almost impossible to get trained staff locally. This is limiting the availability of places.

Even if you can get a place, child care is not cheap. On average long day care costs $105 per day or around $28,000 per year for full time care for a child. The Commonwealth Government provides a subsidy ranging from 20 – 85% of the costs depending on household income. But after the subsidy is paid, families are still around $50 out of pocket per day or $13,000 per year for each child in full time care.

Nationally, around half of families with children under five have difficulty meeting these costs and around a third of women with young children who prefer to work more say that children costs are the main reason holding them back.

And yet child care pays for itself through greater taxes and greater productivity when more women participate in the workforce.  This is important locally in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, where many businesses are finding it hard to get staff.

Childcare is also important to help children to socialise with one another and to participate in developmental and educational activities.

The Hepburn Shire Council community has released a draft early childhood strategy that argues strongly for the importance of childhood development.

But without an adequate number of affordable childcare places in regional areas like Daylesford and Hepburn Springs families with young children will continue to miss out.