Hope for childcare funds boost

WARRNAMBOOL Uniting Church’s child­care centre has welcomed news that government funding for occasional childcare might resume.

The not-for-profit centre’s licensee Gordon Curran said he was heartened by news that assistant minister for education Sussan Ley had started talks with state ministers about making a commitment to reinstating funding for occasional childcare from July 2014.

Mr Curran said the centre had to increase fees for occasional childcare by a third in 2011 after it lost about $16,000 in government funding for the service. 

The centre runs occasional care sessions seven times a week with places for up to 24 children at each session.

The cut in funding also forced the Port Fairy Community Centre to reduce the hours of its childcare service.

Mr Curran said there were indications the state government was willing to contribute its share of the joint Commonwealth-state funding agreement.

However “a minor dispute” over whether the state or federal government would administer the funding appeared to be the last stumbling block to its resumption, he said.

Mr Curran said occasional care was usually provided at childcare centres on an hourly or sessional basis for short periods or at irregular intervals for parents who needed time to attend appointments, take care of personal matters, or just have some temporary respite from full-time parenting. 

Unlike long day care, occasional childcare is limited to a maximum attendance of five hours a day or 15 hours a week.

Mr Curran said more than 9000 children in 220 childcare centres across Victoria were affected by the 2011 funding cut, with some centres losing up to $20,000.

He said affordable occasional childcare was essential for many parents and other carers who worked occasional or on-call shifts, or who were studying part-time or looking for work.

“Foster carers too need such support services as occasional care if the high turnover in their ranks is to be reduced,” Mr Curran said.

“Recent adverse publicity about the number of children requiring out-of-home care in Victoria has added to pressures to strengthen early childhood and parent respite provisions,” he said.

Giving foster carers and their children more access to occasional childcare would give more credence to the state government’s announcement this week that more resources and activities would be provided to young children in out-of-home care — including foster care, kinship care and residential care, Mr Curran said.

ehimmelreich@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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