Whyalla Councils move to keep ECEC viable has caused issues for shift working families

Whyalla Councils move to keep ECEC viable has caused issues for shift working families

by Freya Lucas

January 11, 2022

Families in the regional South Australian town of Whyalla have shared their challenges with accessing affordable and flexible early childhood education and care (ECEC) services after a recent series of operational changes in the way in which the council service is run. 


Local parent Wenona Reddaway-Worth has started a petition, calling for the Whyalla City Council to reconsider the changes in light of how they will impact the many shift workers in the town, which has primary employment in steel working and tourism and hospitality. 


The Council has elected to move away from a flexible booking model, which allowed families to book on a fortnightly basis, to a consistent and regular booking model, with no flexibility for changes. 


“I’m due to go back to work in July and will be going back to full-time hours…my only option if I was to stay at the council daycare is to pay $1,000 a fortnight,” Ms Reddaway-Worth explained, outlining the full fee for a Monday to Friday place for young Billy.


“That’s the full fee, Monday-Friday both weeks, because we could only use five of the 10 days but you lose your subsidy if you do that – you can only be absent so many days,” she explained. 


Compounding the issue is a lack of availability in more flexible care options, such as family day care, in the town. 


Speaking on behalf of the Council, Acting Chief Executive Officer Kristen Clark said the implementation of the policy “was not taken lightly,” but was a necessity to move the childcare centre to a more sustainable model after operating at a loss for a number of years.


Continuing to operate with high flexibility could impact the Council’s broader financial position, causing an impact to rate-payers, Ms Clark explained. 


“Council has continued to work with impacted families in this way, finding solutions for the majority of families. Should any families have concerns regarding the policy, they are encouraged to contact the council,” she added.


To read the original coverage of this story please see here