Kids’ care at risk
AFTERSCHOOL care programs in Leongatha and Wonthaggi are at risk of closing if numbers do not dramatically improve. UnitingCare Gippsland’ s Kristie Burns said the Outside Hours School Care program was suffering from a dwindling number of permanent booking and was unlikely to be operating next year unless the trend was reversed.
The program runs at the Leongatha Primary School and the Wonthaggi Primary School, from 3pm to 6pm and caters for children from Prep to Grade 6. Despite being located at the school, Ms Burns said the program was for “the whole community”.
“We really needed higher numbers – probably 20 children a day to make the program viable. We’re only averaging eight to 10 permanent kids a day. We had 17 recently, but they weren’t permanent bookings,” Ms Burns said.
“We can’t run a program on a casual basis, because it affects our funding. It’s not looking like we’ll get the numbers we need, but we have to try.”
Ms Burns said if there was not a greater response from parents willing to book their children in on a permanent basis, the program would be doomed.
“It’s been really hard. Because we know that it’s really needed, with the majority of the kids being casual. We just can’t establish our budget with casual bookings,” she said.
“Wonthaggi is struggling just as much as Leongatha. The numbers have been dropping there too.”
She believes that because the schools ran the programs cheaply in the past, there was an expectation by parents that prices would always remain low.
“We took in over and the price went up to $16 a session. There’s been a high rise, but a lot of the families aren’t aware that there is a child benefit available, which often reduces what people have to pay,” she said.
“Basically, most families are paying between $4 and $7 a day, rather than $16. Depending on your wage, you could have an 80 per cent childcare benefit.”
Ms Burns said there were many parents using the service who were worried for its future.
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