GE Kindergartens/Childcare

MLA blames council for childcare crisis

(Melbourne Bayside Weekly: Author – Henrietta Cook)

OAKLEIGH MLA Ann Barker has accused Glen Eira Council of failing to collaborate with the state government to find long-term solutions to the area’s impending childcare crisis.

‘‘Glen Eira must be the only council in the state that is not doing this collaborative approach and needs to sit down and seriously talk about it,’’ she said.

Barker’s comments follow a state government announcement that Carnegie Preschool will be temporarily relocated to Carnegie Primary School next year. The relocation of the 1914 kindergarten to a demountable building at Carnegie Primary School follows four years of uncertainty after the Uniting Church sold the Toolambool Road site, where the preschool is currently located.

Barker expressed frustration that a permanent location for the preschool had not been found and said the council was continuing to push for short-term solutions, such as building kindergartens within primary schools, when children’s centres that deliver childcare, kindergarten and maternal child health were the answer.

Glen Eira mayor Steven Tang said the council had submitted two applications this year to establish children’s centre hubs in McKinnon and Elsternwick, both suburbs outside Barker’s electorate, and neither was funded. Only two of 15 kindergarten grant applications submitted by the council were funded.

‘‘All Victorian councils are united in concern about the under-funding of new kindergarten policies,’’ he said.

Director of Carnegie Preschool Pam Marti said families had been feeling anxious about the situation for some time. She said Carnegie was in desperate need of more kindergarten places to accommodate the high numbers of young families moving into the area.

In April, Glen Eira Council submitted its Universal Access Kindergarten Report to the state government, which predicted demand for kindergarten places in Glen Eira will increase by more than 50 per cent from 2010 to 2013 as a result of a federal and state government policy change that aims to increase four-year-old kindergarten from 10 to 15 hours per week.

Barker said the council’s report didn’t provide an appropriate long-term solution to the issue.

‘‘ I’d like to see [the council] stop saying this is a state government responsibility and to say we have these buildings and these possible sites and to talk about it.’’

Questions to councillors:

  • Did council apply for the $500,000 grant – especially since a govt report of 2005 nominated Glen Eira as ‘high priority’?
  • If Glen Eira, with such a ‘crisis’ looming is unsuccessful in its grant applications, then questions as to the quality and nature of applications have every right to be asked.
  • When over $19 million is further distributed by the State Government on 20th October ( residents again have the right to ask why Glen Eira isn’t listed in the above catalogue of successful applicants?

Front page, today’s Caulfield Leader

Kids are not all right: Crisis looms for kindergarten places

Jenny Ling

Glen Eira Council is under fire from parents – again – to provide adequate pre-school and childcare places to avert a crisis.

The Carnegie Uniting Church pre-school is to close in 2012 after 80 years following the sale of land at the corner of Neerim and Toolambool Roads.

The Council hoped the kinder could be relocated to Carnegie Primary School but the option has already been ruled out by the school. Principal Linda Jones said it was only ever a temporary solution. ‘Should the enrolment growth exceed the classroom space then long-term options must be sought,” Ms Jones said.

‘I believe it’s a responsibility of the local government.’

The parents’ plight comes after news of the closure of the Elsternwick Childcare Centre next year.

More than a 100 people have signed a petition demanding the council allocate land at Carnegie’s Packer Park for a new kinder and the State Government to provide its infrastructure. Save Carnegie Kindergarten spokeswoman Susan Harper said letting it close was ‘unacceptable’.

‘The State Government is actively working towards helping provide solutions but the only long-term solution is for the local council to contribute as well’, Ms Harper said.

The public though have told the council though they want Packer Park to be an open space.

The Council’s own Universal Kindergarten Access in Glen Eira report found seven kinders were needed to meet future demand.

Council spokesman Paul Burke said kindergartens were a State Government responsibility.

The minutes for council meeting of October 12th are now available. Item 9.7 concerned the Elsternwick childcare. The actual motion read:

Crs Lipshutz/Pilling

In order to ensure the continuity of childcare in Elsternwick and align Elsternwick Children’s Centre with Council’s other long day care centres, Council seek the assistance of State Government to use all means available to enable the land at 269 Kooyong Road, Elsternwick (Lots 3 & 4) to continue to be used as a child care centre as it has for the past 21 years.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED unanimously.

We also request readers to make note of these sentences from the financial report also considered at this council meeting- “The forecast result expected for the financial year is an operating surplus of $8.95M as compared to the original adopted 2010-11 annual budget of $6.97M.

Please note that any surplus from day-to-day operations is used to accelerate capital works projects.”

Capital works obviously does not include childcare centres!

A report on last night’s council meeting is below. The minutes of course are not up as yet, so this is a ‘preliminary’ summary of the main events.

  • Elsternwick Childcare: Placards were apparently displayed by members of the Local Childcare Coalition opposing the imminent closure of the Elsternwick facility. Councillors (apart from Lobo) all trotted out the party line that childcare is not the responsibility of local government but rather the state (and federal) government! All of course were 100% committed to maintaining the centre – they just didn’t want to spend any money to ensure its continuation. That must be done by the State government. Chief proponents of this view were Lipshutz and co.
  • Hyams moved an amendment to the Local Law Review committee’s recommendations that Centre Rd be considered for potential naming as an ‘Alcohol Free Zone’. This was opposed by Lipshutz with the argument that we don’t need it; that the police don’t want more work, they will do nothing to enforce it and hence the job will fall on the already overworked council officers. The amendment was eventually passed with the acknowledgement that council isn’t committing itself to anything but that by putting it on the agenda for future discussions all options are left open.
  • Murrumbeena planning application. Placards were again held up with the signage ‘save our suburbs’. Instead of 3 to 4 storeys and 80 odd apartments, this development was ‘reduced’ to two storeys and (only 50) apartments. Traffic congestion was acknowledged as a potential problem!
  • Lobo attempted to raise the issue of ‘unauthorised sporting activities’ again, with his ‘request for a report’. There was no seconder, so the motion lapsed.
  • Penhalluriack requested a report on the discussions and decisions made between council and the MRC over the Caulfield Racetrack. Lipshutz queried whether this was necessary since it might create the impression that councillors did not have full faith in the officers. This was also commented on by Hyams. Forge then stated that perhaps any report need not be made public, but just kept to councillors. Penhalluriack agreed with this and assured everyone that he was not implying anything about officers.
  • Public questions again featured many from the Social Soccer Club. Responses were per ‘normal’.

Last Tuesday night’s Council Meeting provided the gallery with the same old excuses and rhetoric that residents have become accustomed to whenever kindergartens and childcare facilities are mentioned. With shameful predictability nothing in the budget was changed in response to thoughtful and comprehensive submissions by the Save Local Childcare Coalition and the Toy Library. The same old slogans and shibboleths were let loose underpinning a philosophy which simply refuses to accept any social, much less moral, obligation to cater to residents’ needs.

‘It’s not our responsibility’ is the standard catch cry. It’s the state and federal governments’ job to provide for kindas and childcare. On and on, councillors trot out the party line. Last year saw waiting lists of over 150 for kindergarten places; this year it is the imminent closure of the Elsternwick Childcare Centre and the cramped and unsafe working environment of the Toy Library.

None of this is new. It is ‘policy’, set by an administration and countenanced by councillors who either do not have the wherewithal to challenge an agenda designed to rid itself of all ‘costly’ enterprises outside of sport and pavilions or, who simply are incapable of honouring their commitment to the community. How much longer can this go on? And it has been going on for far too long. As far back as 2003, speeches were made in Parliament condemning Glen Eira and its failure to provide adequate childcare facilities. Here’s an example:

Mr Scheffer – 5th November, 2003

I raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Community Services in the other place, the Honourable Sherryl Garbutt. The role of the City of Glen Eira in the steady privatisation of child care has been a growing concern to local parents. In recent days the issue has erupted again with Sunday’s edition of the Caulfield Glen Eira Leader running two separate stories on what it calls the child-care crisis and on the council’s September decision to close the Caulfield Children’s Centre. The Glen Eira council says the centre has to close because the facility would not meet new state government standards. The council says it cannot afford the upgrade. I have called for the council to apply to the Victorian government for a three-year exemption to give it time so that the centre’s 75 children and their families can keep using the service.

A report by the City of Glen Eira states that demand for child care in Glen Eira  currently exceeds places available, and I suspect that the council is prepared to reduce its level of involvement in the provision of child care, because it wants the private sector to fill the vacuum. I ask the minister to provide me with information on what the Bracks government is doing to support local government such as the City of Glen Eira to maintain the role in the delivery of child-care services at a time when the challenge is on to improve operating standards in child-care centres.

Local parents are campaigning to keep the Caulfield Children’s Centre open and are meeting with councillors to press their case. I strongly support their efforts. They want the right to choose community-based child care and they want Glen Eira council to maintain a strong presence. The Glen Eira report states that the total number of children in the 0-to-6 age group in Glen Eira  will fall by about 10 per cent in the next 20 years but also says that demand may be influenced by work force participation levels – and increase.

Local parents say actual birth notifications show a steady increase in recent years and that the percentage of first-time mothers in Glen Eira is significantly higher than the state average. The report also states that the size of the market has expanded rapidly over the past decade and will continue to do so. The council is not especially concerned over the loss of child-care places when the Caulfield Children’s Centre closes. They know the private sector will pick up the shortfall.

While many parents are very happy with privately operated centres, a significant number want community-based care and are appalled by council vacating the field so that right now it provides only 16 per cent of the centre-based places”.

The fact that the Caulfield Centre ‘survived’ has more to do with parents’ outcry than council policy. None of the lobbying, acrimony, and behind the scenes shenanigans should have happened. The failure to facilitate open debate was, and remains evident.

And today, we have Rob Hudson, adding his voice to the ongoing sham:

Rob Hudson – april 13th, 2010:

“To provide just one example, the City of Port Phillip has spent over $4 million on new kindergartens and children’s hubs in the last three years. During the same period the Glen Eira City Council has not made any application for children’s hub funding. As a result of this lack of investment by the Glen Eira City Council the waiting list for kindergarten places in the city blew out in October last year to 146. While that was eventually reduced to less than 30, thanks in part to the state government making Caulfield Primary School available as a kindergarten, this is still totally unacceptable. Every four-year-old is entitled to one year of preschool, and the Glen Eira City Council should ensure that there is a sufficient number of kindergartens in the city for that to occur. ”

Councillors have many questions to answer regarding their consistent failure to act on these issues.

From yesterday’s Age newspaper

Row over council’s cut in childcare


July 7, 2010

THE federal government’s controversial excuse for dumping its election promise to build more than 200 childcare centres has been used to justify a cut to the number of centres in the baby-booming City of Glen Eira.

Parents are angry that the council will not find a replacement facility for Elsternwick Children’s Centre when it closes after its lease expires next year. In a letter to parents, Glen Eira mayor Steven Tang used statistics cited by the government – including that 90 per cent of long day-care centres in Melbourne report vacancies – to help show there did not appear to be a childcare shortage.

Save Local Childcare Coalition spokeswoman Bron Burton said it was nonsensical to use national data to suggest there were plenty of places in Elsternwick. The council’s early-years plan shows the number of births in Elsternwick jumped from 187 in 1999/2000 to 300 in 2008/2009. The report also identified that finding childcare for children under two was difficult due to long waiting lists.

// Dr Burton said many of the 65 families who used the Elsternwick Children’s Centre would struggle to find alternative childcare that suited them, and some parents would be unable to return to work.

The City of Glen Eira, in Melbourne’s south-east, will have just three council-managed childcare centres when Elsternwick closes – Caulfield, Carnegie and Murrumbeena.

”We know of a lot of parents who are currently on waiting lists and have been for some time,” Dr Burton said.

Cr Tang said the council would prefer to continue operating the Elsternwick centre at the current site, but the owner would not extend the lease.

He acknowledged there would not be a vacancy for every child at the other council-managed centres, but said there were plenty of alternatives. ”The equivalent of 60 vacancies per day were identified across Glen Eira … [and] 26 of the 37 services in Glen Eira indicated that they currently had vacancies,” Cr Tang said in the letter.

He told The Age the council’s early childhood priorities in Elsternwick included kindergarten and an upgrade to the maternal and child health centre. ”These services are not being delivered by other providers,” he said.

But Dr Burton said private childcare centres often didn’t take children under 18 months old, and many parents preferred council-managed centres.

The federal government’s statistics – which it used to justify its backflip on building childcare centres on school grounds – have been criticised because they average out all vacancies and do not acknowledge there are chronic shortages in some areas.

The Greens surveyed 56 childcare centres in the inner-city federal electorate of Melbourne and found only 6 per cent had vacancies every day for children aged two and under, while only 11 per cent had vacancies every day for three-year-olds.”

More on this issue and kindergartens in the coming days.

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