A blow-out in child-care costs is making Illawarra mums question their decision to return to work, with some paying up to $800 a week.
Shell Cove mum Renee Thornton said she was more fortunate because she was eligible for government rebates but fees were "escalating out of control".
"Fees will rise again next week. I'm lucky I get subsidies, but I know parents who are paying over $700 a week," Mrs Thornton said yesterday.
"With the latest rise, that will be $800 in a week. I know talking about this might not make much difference for me, but if it helps somebody else it's worth it."
Mrs Thornton sends her four-year-old daughter Ebonnie and son Kobi, 3, to the Shell Cove centre run by Mission Australia Early Learning Services. Like many parents, she is eligible for Federal Government child-care benefits and rebates, but says the fee hikes still hit hard.
She claims the centre has carefully timed its "hefty" increases without consulting parents.
"The only consultation is a letter telling us it's happening. What input can we have to this? Nothing."
Mrs Thornton said the centre increased fees at the start of the year - meaning she was to pay $76 per day, up from $63 last year. The newest rise will send Mrs Thornton's daily fee to $79.50 per child.
"I don't see any sensitivity to the increasing financial pressures on families. If there was any they would have made some consideration to their fee increases before putting them up so drastically," she said.
"We can't leave the centre because we can't get the five days for two children care that we need. The centre knows this. When will it stop?"
Mrs Thornton said the increases were "very carefully timed" to ensure "we couldn't go anywhere".
"The centres were at full capacity already with bookings completed just after Christmas. And again with the recent increase, all centres are close to capacity because it is the middle of the year."
Mission Australia Early Learning said yesterday that Shell Cove's hourly rate was comparable to other nearby centres.
"From time to time Mission Australia must review its fees to ensure we cover our operational costs and continue to provide children with the best possible care," southern NSW regional manager Carissa Roberts said.
"Recently - along with the entire child-care sector - we've had to make moderate changes to cover increased costs associated with the Government's new early learning quality standards as well as the rising cost of living.
"We're sensitive to the increasing financial pressures ... and make this a key consideration whenever planning change."
By Cydonee Mardon
Source: Illawarra Mercury - http://goo.gl/2bcav