Parents despair over childcare during holidays

Hugely expensive and over-subscribed holiday programmes are forcing desperate parents to harbour their children at work or dump them as they try to make ends meet.

Robyn Corrigan, a professional practice leader for Family Works Northern, says school holidays are really challenging and parents are resorting to leaving their children, often unsupervised.

"In our experience, parents who work are hugely dependent on friends and family over Christmas and when that's not possible, it's that last resort back to holiday programmes," she said.

"Some of the not-so-good stuff is they leave them at home with under-aged siblings. And those are the extreme cases where not-so-good things have the potential to happen."

In the 12 months to June 30, 2012, Child Youth and Family investigated 4766 cases of neglect.

Corrigan says people are desperate to keep their jobs and keep afloat, driving them to extreme measures.

"I don't think there is any perfect outcome, parents just struggle to do what they can in the situation they are in," she said.

"Taking them to work is the best of the worst alternatives and some employers are really good and allow that to happen."

But holiday programmes are the only option for some parents.

Popular, nation-wide holiday programme provider the YMCA, funded by the Social Development Ministry, asks an average $30-a-day rate.

Low income families that look for a cheaper alternative through churches or community groups, struggle to find anything with capacity.

Corrigan says the most expensive holiday programme she has seen this year has been at council swimming pools, which run in excess of $38 a day.

One council-funded programme in Auckland averaged $65 a day.

"That's where desperation takes over, when they can't afford to pay that money," she said. "It works out that some parents are literally working to pay for childcare.

"They are horrendously expensive and the ones that aren't hugely costly are so oversubscribed."

Sunday Star Times