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THE HERALD’S OPINION: Faith and flexibility in our region’s childcare

CHILDCAREmay be the hidden backbone of the modern n workforce. Parents must weigh up its price against a day’s wages, and if that balance tips, it becomes unfeasible for them. Subsequently, the sector can help decide who does and doesn’t front up for jobs tomorrow.
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On the other hand, the sector also faces its own struggles. United Voice union members walked off the job in March to protest low rates of pay, industrial action they estimated closed 320 centres and affected 30,000 families. This offers an indication of scale.

Childcare centres are also lucrative enough to drive commercial property sales, including one at Rutherford earlier this month that changed hands for more than $3.3 million.

The agents in that sale said it was one of four childcare properties they had sold in a single auction. They said $220 million worth of commercial childcare property had shifted throughout 2017.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the Catholic system will step into this space so significantly in the future. A Newcastle Herald investigation in 2016 found that Catholic school populations were rising significantly in the region, sparking expansions on existing campuses and new ones to emerge.

The Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese’s move into childcare makes sense, given the Catholic system is already the largest non-government educator for school students. The system already holds a degree of trust in the minds of many modern parents,despite some dark chapters in the history of the diocese and its schools.

That reassurance thatparents feel is a valuable commodity when making a decision about whom to trust with taking care of their children for hours at a time.

The frenetic school pick-up is simplified with childcare for all ages basing itself on the same site. Likewise, the familiar surrounds are likely less daunting for children as they progress through the ranks of our schools towards their graduation.

Greater flexibilityfor our region’s parents ultimately gives the region a greater workforce, spilling on economic benefits across multiple sectors. While the diocese’s expansion is no doubt backed by their own business case, it will likely be welcomed by many employers further afield.

There will no doubt be a plethora of parents grateful for the option of one less stop on the way to work.

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