THE urgent Special Meeting of South Gippsland Shire Council last Friday was more than an opportunity to approve a contribution of up to $12,000 worth of funding support for the continuation of important childcare services in Corner Inlet.
It was also an example of how nobly community organisations in South Gippsland are willing to partner with Council to represent the needs of the community.
The Mirboo North and District Community Foundation confirmed prior to Christmas that it would meet the required deficit to ensure continuation of the child care service at St Andrew’s Child Care through to the end of April 2014.
This week the Promontory District Finance Group (Toora and Foster Community Banks) agreed to partner with Council to meet 50 per cent each of the required deficit to ensure continuity of service at Prom Coast Centre for Children at Foster. The deficit funding will secure an extension of UnitingCare’s withdrawal date by two months to the end of April 2014 for both centres.
“The goodwill of both organisations and their partnership with Council typifies our district as people who care about each other and are prepared to roll their sleeves up when the going gets tough and fight for the services our city counterparts take for granted,” said Council’s Mayor Jim Fawcett.
The YMCA Ballarat has been confirmed as the preferred provider for St Andrew’s Child Care Centre at Mirboo North, and in the absence of any interest from a licensed provider, a community committee of management is being established to manage the Prom Coast Centre for Children.
The extension is critical to provide adequate time for alternative providers for each centre to undertake their financial due diligence, along with a newly established community committee of management for the Prom Coast Centre for Children to become incorporated and achieve the necessary licences to operate.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) must also be acknowledged for their support. They have assisted Council with funding for a temporary project co-ordinator, and have engaged an external accountant to work with the proposed alternative providers for each centre to determine whether financially viable models of service delivery can be provided.
“We are not out of the woods yet. The financial modelling will clearly tell us whether the centres can operate as viable and sustainable entities. Both the YMCA Ballarat and the community committee of management will then make the decision as to whether they will take over the management of the services. In the meantime, Council will continue to support and work with the community to find the best possible outcome,” said Mayor Fawcett.
“Child care options in small rural communities are limited. The closure of either centre would require families to find child care outside of their local town. Over 160 families and 28 staff have been directly impacted by UnitingCare’s decision to withdraw services from South Gippsland. We know the ripple effect of a closure would be significant. If child care is not accessible, families may choose to leave the area, staff currently employed would lose their jobs and there would be a direct financial impact on the local economy.”
The decision of the Mirboo North and District Community Foundation and the Toora and Foster Community Banks sends a clear message to the federal and state governments that child care services in rural Victoria are vital to the wellbeing of the community and the local economy.