A cost cutting exercise that penalises children: parents hit out at Council ECEC sales

A cost cutting exercise that penalises children: parents hit out at Council ECEC sales

by Freya Lucas

December 02, 2021

A group of concerned parents in Port Phillip Council have expressed their concerns about a proposal to sell three community-run childcare centres, describing the plans as “a cost-cutting exercise at the expense of children”.

 

The inner-city council will vote on the proposal to sell the childcare centres on Tennyson Street in Elwood, Eildon Road in St Kilda and on The Avenue in Balaclava at its meeting on Wednesday night. The Age has also reported that the Council hopes to shut down and redevelop a fourth community childcare centre on North Street in St Kilda, which will offer places to some of the children from the three closed centres once it reopens in two years.

 

Currently Port Phillip Council manages three kindergartens and five childcare centres, while eight Council-owned centres – including the three services under consideration for sale – are run by parent committees. 

 

In 2019, the Council lost a battle to outsource the council-run childcare centres to not-for-profit providers. The Council’s reason for exploring the sale of the three centres named in the proposal is that the sites are suffering from age-related decline, and are non compliant with relevant building codes as well as the Disability Discrimintion Act

 

Tara Winslow, Director at the Elwood site, claims that the state of disrepair in the three buildings is a result of “years of neglect” by the Council, despite each service paying a levy to cover maintenance. 

 

“I don’t know where it’s going,” Ms Winslow said, “but it’s definitely not coming back into [the centres].” 

 

Speaking on behalf of the Council, Mayor Marcus Pearl said attempts were being made to address the lack of maintenance, however significant work on the century-old buildings would require not only compliance with disability codes, but sometimes heritage ones, and that the only way this could be achieved is by pulling the buildings down and rebuilding them. 

 

The Avenue and Eildon Street centres were both gifted to the-then St Kilda Council to provide childcare. Elwood is a small Exceeding rated centre, which operates above ratio. Elwood parent Pennie Brown told The Age she felt there was a “David and Goliath battle” taking place, with smaller aging centres being replaced by larger built-for-purpose spaces. 

 

“It’s the death knell for community-managed services,” she said. 

 

To read the original coverage of this story, please see here

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