Wednesday, December 17, 2008

report from the roundtable - 16 dec

Report from the Roundtable is a regular entry on my blog where I report back on items from the most recent council meeting. This week it was the first meeting of the new council, very much the same faces as the last council with the addition of Cr Richard Higgins (Chirnside) and Cr Chris Templer (O’Shannassy).

A lot of different items were covered, but this time round I’m going to focus on childcare. Childcare is an issue that I have always been passionate about and I have long been an advocate for community based not for profit childcare, rejecting the notion of ‘for profit’ childcare. The demise of ABC Learning Centres across the country has thrown the childcare sector into crisis. Of the four ABC centres in the Shire, 3 are being continued, the one in Healesville is scheduled for closure in March, 2009. This is a dire situation for families in the Healesville region.

Me, outside council's long day care facility, Sherbrooke Children's Centre (SCC). It's full steam ahead for this site with the development of a Children's Hub for the Dandenong Ranges region. This will include integrated services for families across the hills and a 110 place long day care centre. Currently the waiting list at SCC is over 240 places. There is a clear demand in the hills for community based childcare.

The Robyn Jane Childcare Centre, a not for profit community based provider, are looking to expand their centre but can’t at their current location. The ABC centre offers them an ideal opportunity for expansion and if successful the community will have an even greater access to community based childcare.

Given the current Senate Inquiry into the provision of Childcare I thought it was important that the shire makes a submission to the inquiry as well as assisting Robyn Jane in their efforts to secure the ABC site in Healesville. It is time for the Federal Government to rethink long day care in this country, the failure of ABC highlights many areas of serious concern for the childcare sector. With this in mind I moved the following motion:

Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Provision of Childcare:

Resolved on the motion of Crs Dunn and Cliff

1. Council make a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the provision of Childcare prior to the close of submissions on the 30 January, 2009 and that the submission include:
a) Calls for greater federal investment into community based child care.
b) Support for local government to provide or support childcare services and that the provision of childcare is affordable and of high quality.
c) Acknowledgement that provision of Childcare is an important part of early childhood development and should provide quality care, health and educational outcomes for children and families.
d) That there be adequate performance monitoring including financial audits.
e) That federal funding for capital grants for childcare be reinstated.
f) Provide funding to local government and not for profit community groups for failed ABC childcare centres with the provision that the net operating costs, including leases and other costs associated with buildings and grounds, are funded by the federal government and any costs to be borne by council are identified for council to consider first and that Council is indemnified against any liabilities arising from the existing operations.

2. Council works with the Committee of Management from the Robyn Jane Childcare Centre in Healesville to assist with their negotiations to take over the operation of the ABC Childcare centre located in Healesville.

3. Council notes that where appropriate council’s family and children’s services staff will offer advice and support to ABC Learning staff and users.

The motion was supported by all councillors with the exception of Cr Graham Warren (Chandler).

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