More than 600 serious incidents have been reported in ACT early childcare centres in the 2019-20 financial year, figures from the Productivity Commission have revealed.
The report, released on Tuesday, found the ACT is the most-expensive place in the country to send kids to childcare, with a median-weekly cost for a government approved services of $595. That is $70 more than the national average.
It revealed there had been 637 serious incidents at National Quality Framework (NQF) approved childcare centres in the ACT in the 2019-20 financial year.
This equated to 176 incidents per 100 services while the national average per 100 services was 103.
Among those incidents were 465 instances of illness, injury or trauma, 79 instances of a child being locked in or out, being taken away or unaccounted for and emergency services attended 93 incidents.
The majority of serious incidents occurred at centre-based day care.
There was an increase in serious incidents from the 2018-19 financial year when there was 578.
The territory has the highest percentage of children up to five-years-old attending a government-approved early childhood service, with 56.6 per cent compared to the national average of 44 per cent. There was an increase of 407 children enrolled in childcare services in the last financial year.
The report also found in 2016, 38 per cent of early childcare primary care staff did not have the relevant formal qualifications which was 15 per cent above the national average of 23 per cent.
However, that figure dropped since 2013 when almost half of primary care staff did not have that qualification, double the national average at the time.
Diversity in Canberra childcare services has grown between 2010 and 2016 with 20 per cent of children in services between zero and 12 from non-English speaking backgrounds.
This is up 7 per cent since 2010.
Thirty-four per cent of pre-school children are from a non-English speaking background. Minister for Early Childhood Development Yvette Berry said the government was addressing equity in childcare services across the territory.
"Well-established research has shown that the period from birth through to eight years - especially the first three years - sets the foundation for every child's social, physical, emotional and cognitive development," she said.
"Currently, the government is delivering the first phase of universal access, prioritising vulnerable and disadvantaged three-year-olds." Ms Berry said the government would continue to improve access to childcare.
"Five-hundred places are available in participating early childhood and education care services, and 100 additional places are available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander three-year-old children at a Koori Preschool," she said.
"The ACT government will continue to improve access to early childhood education in Canberra in a way that supports the early childhood education and care sector, educators, and families."