We recently had a family move to us from a local large long day care centre. I always like to ask parents why they decide to do this as it helps me understand their needs and make sure we are doing the best we can to support them. The feedback is always very interesting and this time something really stood out to me.
This family felt their long day care provided was not flexible or willing to adapt to their changing circumstances.
This struck me as odd given the year we have all had. I would have thought we have all become very good at being flexible and adapting to changed circumstances. Specifically, the parent told be about the long day care centre’s “use it or lose it” booking policy. The parent no longer required a day of care but, because of the policy, was unable to cancel the day and had to continue to pay.
The parent went on to describe the long day care centre’s polite claims about supporting working families, but the reality was a maze of extra fees, penalties, up-front payments and locked in bookings.
It made me sad to think the big end of our industry has lost its heart. I started Playful Learners with the goal of doing child care differently, we call this smaller is better child care. We do many things differently to the traditional long day care centres, particularly when it comes to flexible bookings and easier fees. Here are some examples of how we are different:
Substitute Days: Late change in work roster? Or you have a chance to take a day off? No problem, we’ll credit your booking so you can substitute and use it at a later date.
No Upfront Payments: we know that paying upfront puts a lot of pressure on the family budget and makes dealing with Centrelink more difficult, so we don’t do it.
No Lock-In Bookings: family life is far from predictable and no two weeks ever look the same. We think it is unreasonable to expect families to lock in long term bookings.
Lower Daily Rates: we are well under the industry average daily rate and in our five years of operating we have had only one small ($5) increase to our daily rate.
How do we do it? Easy, we are small, nimble and well run. We don’t carry the huge costs, expensive rents and big bills of traditional long day care centres. Most importantly we made the decision to offer genuine support to our families, not just words.