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Childcare scare

THE future vitality of Mirboo North and Foster could rest on the continuation of childcare services in the towns.

Families have signalled they would leave the towns to find childcare elsewhere, reducing the town’s populations and stripping the communities of business and volunteers, unless a new childcare provider could be found by the end of February 2014.

UnitingCare Gippsland last week announced it would withdraw as the operator of long day care centres at Foster, Mirboo North, Cowes and Lakes Entrance.

Acting CEO Tracey Gibson said the State Government had increased staffing ratios and educational requirements, but the Federal Government had not increased funding to match, resulting in a financial loss.

Yesterday (Monday), she said UnitingCare Gippsland had received several enquiries from potential providers and referred those to South Gippsland Shire Council and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

McMillan MP Russell Broadbent met with representatives of the Mirboo North centre yesterday afternoon (Monday).

The Prom Coast Centre for Children at Foster services 105 families, and employs 14 permanent and two casual staff.

St Andrew’s Childcare Centre at Mirboo North supports 55 families and employs seven permanent and five casual staff.

A public meeting will be held at the Prom Coast Centre at Foster tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7pm and another meeting at Mirboo North’s Baromi Senior Citizens Centre on Thursday, November 7 at 7pm.

Laurie Newman moved her young family to Mirboo North in June after she and her husband secured positions at Latrobe Regional Hospital at Traralgon.

Her children attend the childcare centre two days per week.

“Should the centre be forced to close, we would most likely have to move to Leongatha, not only unsettling our children with yet another move but also increasing our daily commute to work,” Mrs Newman said.

“The follow on effects from this would mean we would no longer buy our meat from Craig Young (butchery), no longer buy our morning coffees from the bakery and no longer have our papers delivered by the local newsagent.”

Had there been no childcare services in Mirboo North, Mrs Newman said she would never have moved there.

“We need all the support we can from local and state governments to ensure our childcare centre can remain open and keep all the wonderful staff who take care of our children in a job, not to mention keeping Mirboo North the thriving country community that it is.” she said.

Mrs Newman said other parents were planning on moving.

“Then the problem with that is do the outlying towns like Leongatha have enough room for these extra families?,” she said.

The Foster community is confident a new operator will be found, said Wilhelmina Pruyn, chair of the Parents Advisory Group at the Prom Coast Centre for Children at Foster.

“We have got fabulous facilities and we have got fabulous staff and families that need after school care as well as childcare, and the shire is finding a new partner,” she said.

“We are not even looking at not getting a service provider at the moment. It is business as usual. We will get a new service provider to provide the service to the community because there is a need for it.”

South Gippsland Shire Council mayor Cr Kieran Kennedy told last Wednesday’s council meeting council would work with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to secure an alternate provider.

“Hopefully a new provider can be found before February 2014,” he said.

Council’s director of community services Jan Martin said council would now advertise for expressions of interest to operate the Mirboo North and Foster centres.

However she noted while the Foster centre was owned by council, the Uniting Church owned the Mirboo North centre.

“We can’t decide who is going to operate from someone else’s facility. We are going to work with the Mirboo North church and the community, but in the end it will be a decision of the church and the community,” Ms Martin said.

A new operator would need to be appointed by Christmas to allow them to establish before the end of February.

Mr  Broadbent told The Star on Friday he was concerned by UnitingCare Gippsland’s withdrawal and the adverse impact upon parents, children and workers.

“The childcare centre closures seem to be part of a trend toward a concerted withdrawal of services from the bush. It’s a circumstance that has played out in many areas – whether it be the loss of local Australia Post mail contracts, diminished healthcare services, or a myriad of other things,” he said.

“It’s very clear city based childcare centres have enjoyed viability through government outlays, but country childcare services have suffered by comparison.”

Mr Broadbent said his staff would contact the relevant state and federal members to alert them to the issues surrounding Gippsland childcare centres.

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said the government was concerned by the announcement and would seek a resolution.

“We will work in agreement with UnitingCare Gippsland to ensure there is no gap in this critically important service,” he said.

Bass Coast Shire Council was disappointed UnitingCare Gippsland had withdrawn as the operator of the Phillip Island Early Learning Centre.

Council’s acting community and economic development director Antoinette Mitchell said, “We are currently talking to various stakeholders and investigating options, and will be providing further reports as we work through a solution.”

Meanwhile the church council of St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Mirboo North, announced the council and congregation of St Andrew’s Uniting Church were not consulted and had no part in UnitingCare Gippsland’s decision.

Not fair: Sophie Visser and her children Finn and Oscar, and Laurie Newman and her children Isla and Harry will be affected if there is no longer childcare in Mirboo North.
Not fair: Sophie Visser and her children Finn and Oscar, and Laurie Newman and her children Isla and Harry will be affected if there is no longer childcare in Mirboo North.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=9157

Posted by on Oct 29 2013. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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