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Uncertain future for childcare in Marrickville

Family Day Care under threat. Photo: Marrickville Council

By Emily Contador-Kelsall

Marrickville council is fighting funding cuts to Family Day Care [FDC] in a bid to safeguard the future of childcare in Marrickville.

Marrickville council is acting against funding cuts to FDC services announced in the May Budget and changes to funding eligibility that threaten the presence of FDCs in Marrickville.

For more than 35 years, FDC services across Australia have received operational funding from the federal government to support staff and centres.

Posing further change to the childcare infrastructure in Marrickville is the single, means tested childcare subsidy recently recommended by the productivity commission to replace current ranges of subsidies.

The Productivity Commission has proposed to combine the childcare rebate and benefit into one payment and means test it.

Marrickville Mayor Jo Haylen said the callous, indefensible budget cuts to FDCs would make keeping up with current demands for childcare almost impossible.

“There is already a significant gap in meeting current childcare needs in Marrickville. With almost 2000 names on our waiting lists, we need to be securing more services for our residents, not struggling to maintain what we have already.”

Council said that the FDC service model is unique in that it provides affordable, flexible and after-hours education and care options for families.

“Access to high quality affordable, accessible and flexible child care is a critical factor in supporting workforce participation by both women and men.”

Leanne Gibbs, CEO of Community Childcare Cooperative said the cuts to funding have affected the potential for quality in FDCS.

“These [funding cuts] will affect the FDC sector by reducing the availability of operational funding to run FDC services. These operational funds provide coordination support and administrative support and have been available to both for profit and not for profit services.”

Council is an approved provider of Marrickville FDC and currently supports 21 individual FDC educators in the area.

In its motion against federal budget cuts to childcare, Marrickville council resolved to write to federal MPs including Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, expressing concern about the ongoing feasibility of FDCs since the changes to funding guidelines.

Council will also write to local NSW Government requesting it to lodge a submission on behalf of NSW local councils requesting urgent consultations be held about the impacts of funding changes.

Marrickville’s Manager childcare services said it was too soon to say what the single childcare subsidy would mean for Marrickville’s childcares and what the future of childcare would look like in Marrickville.

Marrickville council is currently analysing the many proposals and recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s report.

Leanne Gibbs said the measures proposed by the Productivity Commission need more testing, modelling and better links to research.

“Means tested subsidy is probably overdue but the measures proposed may not alleviate the costs for those under $60,000.”

“Initial modelling shows greater relief for those with incomes between $60,000 and $160,000 and some question as to what this looks like for those under and over may not differ.”

The future of childcare for FDCs under revised guidelines that take effect from July 1 2015 is clearer.

Under these guidelines, a FDC service will be eligible for funding from the community services program only if it is the sole FDC service provider operating in a regional, remote or disadvantaged area and there is an unmet demand for childcare.

No FDC services in metropolitan Sydney are likely to be eligible for funding under new guidelines, a change which will deeply affect Marrickville where there is already a significant gap in meeting childcare needs.

There are currently between 95-105 equivalent full time places provided for Marrickville children in FDC services according to council.

“The demand for childcare here in Marrickville is only growing. Council’s recent Community Facilities study identified a desperate need for more childcare services, with an additional 650 kids aged 0-4 years expected to be living in the LGA by 2031,” said Mayor Haylen.

Marrickville council is investigating several options for the future of FDCs when funding is withdrawn mid-next year. These options include ceasing to be a FDC provider, increasing fees and charges or funding the $125,000 funding shortfall per annum from council’s budget.

Transition planning is already underway in Marrickville with FDC staff, educators and Coordinators meeting to explain proposed funding cuts and eligibility changes and review the FDC business model and viability.

Council has also held a meeting with FDC educators and issued a letter to families using the FDC service, advising them of proposed changes and opportunities for their input.  Council made a strong commitment to maintain ongoing discussion with families, staff and educators over the next 12 months.

“Marrickville Council takes the increasing demand for childcare very seriously. That’s why in November last year we made a commitment to build and operate a new 60 place centre in South Marrickville,” said Mayor Haylen

“This is part of Council’s strategic approach to dealing with the current baby boom and planning for our future.”



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