Wednesday, June 25, 2014

family day care - a victory

report from the roundtable - 24 jun

A busy night in the gallery, standing room only, I would estimate that at least 80% of the people there were there to listen to the debate on the Cessation of the Family Day Care Service.  After a motion to change the order of business so council considered this item first (this item was 13th on our agenda), the debate was on.

A parent of the Shire's Family Day Care (FDC) service presented to council. She talked about the trusted, supportive framework, how important this model of care was to her children. How she only learnt about the potential cessation on Friday (20 June) and only had 2 days to prepare. It was a heartfelt presentation, a compelling submission from a FDC family.

I had a number of questions to ask our Director of Social and Economic Development, from my read of the report and based on the emails we'd received there were many unresolved issues for me.

One of the key concerns for me was around submissions that 5 educators (the people who provide FDC services) were about to be recruited last week and were told not to bother. I was also concerned about the veracity of information in the report in relation to educator numbers and retirements, the review process, the lack of information on social impact to families, the lack of benchmarking in comparison to other FDC providers and a range of other matters.

I asked about the length of the waiting list for Yarra Ranges FDC and although the Director couldn't answer, many in the gallery clearly knew the number, 200.

After an exhaustive question process a motion to cease the service was put by Cr McCarthy.  
I have had a long history of campaigning to save
childcare, this article dates back to 2004 where
I was part of a group of parents trying to save long day
care at Sherbrooke Children's Centre, at the time we were
 celebrating one year of successful campaigning to keep the
centre open, it was that campaign that led me to run for
council back in 2005 and I've been a councillor ever since.
There was a lot of parallels between the issues that influenced
that campaign and the current consideration to close
family day care. It almost felt like dejavu.

I could not support the motion, in speaking against the closure I talked to a range of issues in an attempt to persuade councillors that FDC was a valuable, highly regarded quality service.

The provision of FDC aligns with our Children's and Youth strategy in that it provides affordable early childhood education , ensures parents can enter the workforce and that care options meet the needs of families and children, particularly those more vulnerable families.

I was concerned about the timing of the notification, it is not acceptable to give families and educators 6 days notice, 2 of those days Saturday and Sunday, it doesn't allow proper community participation.

I talked about the service, the strict monitoring, stringent safety checks, requirements of excursions and travel, it's benchmarking and accountability standards. It is a highly valued service, committed to excellence in early childhood.

I spoke briefly about the other providers and how comparing those services to Yarra Ranges is not comparing like with like because of the difference in quality standards and benchmarking. I asked councillors do they value the service, do we have a commitment to the triple bottom line, taking into account social, environmental and economic impacts, do we even know what family day care is?

I talked about the need to provide choices to families, that settings such as long day care don't suit all families and FDC plays an important role for families with special needs children and those vulnerable families. It also is far more flexible in terms of coverage of hours, especially useful for families with shift workers.

I turned to the finances as much of the report and the debate centred around this and cost neutrality of the service.  The report mentions a loss of $38,000 projected for 2014/15, this equates to 0.02% of Yarra Ranges total budget of $177million or .67cents per rateable property. I highlighted to councillors that there is potential for the service to achieve cost neutrality, particularly if given the opportunity to recruit the additional educators.  

In summing up I asked councillors if this is an informed decision they are making, from my perspective it seemed FDC has been set up to fail with the constraints of the review and inability to recruit additional educators.  I asserted that the report was incomplete, not factual and went as far to say it was biased noting  this is the first time in my time on council that I have said a report is biased.

The report had no consideration of social impacts, scant mention of recruitment and the potential to break even and achieve cost neutrality.

The service is highly valued, well loved, is a minimal cost to council, it fulfils our strategy and our mission to "build healthy, connected and viable communities".

In finishing I said "we all know if we get it right in the early years we get it right for life". 

The vote was put and to my great surprise was lost.

Crs voting to cease FDC: Crs McCarthy, Child and Avery
Crs voting against the motion: Crs Dunn, Cox, Cliff, Witlox, McAllister and Callanan.

As part of my opposing the motion I foreshadowed an alternate motion.

I moved that "Council resolve to continue to provide Family Day Care into the future and recognise the important role Family Day Care plays in providing childcare options to families across the municipality."
It was great to be able to celebrate the victory with
family day care families, when I walked into council
I really didn't think this would be the outcome and
I'm delighted that council has reaffirmed our support for
council run Family Day Care.
My thanks to Jesse and the Mail Newspaper Group for the pic.

Although much had already been said I thought it was worth restating a few points. I talked about the demand for the service, the waiting list, that 27 educators was the 'magic number' in terms of achieving cost neutrality. I said the service had been reviewed to death and it was time to get on with the getting  on. I talked about the positive recruitment drive over the last 8 months, post the review. I also restated the quality and standard of the service.

I was happy to accept some amendments to the motion that gave it more strength. The motion was put and to my very great delight it was won.

Crs in favour of retaining the service: Crs Dunn, Cox, Cliff, McAllister and Callanan
Crs against: Cr Child, Witlox, McCarthy and Avery.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker