Sunbury residents call for more occasional care options following SALC closure
Residents in Sunbury, Victoria are calling for more occasional care options following the closure of the Hume Council’s Sunbury Aquatic and Leisure Centre (SALC) occasional care service in 2020.
Occasional care is an early childhood education and care (ECEC) option which offers parents casual and flexible care for short periods of time or on a sporadic basis, to allow them to attend appointments, support family members, or provide for older children.
The SALC occasional care option also allowed parents an option to do swimming lessons one-on-one with a child while their other child or children were cared for.
Local resident Sarah Davies spoke out on behalf of parents in her community, talking with a journalist from Star Weekly – Sunbury and Macedon Ranges about the issues.
“Some of these children have missed out on things with COVID-19 and now they’re missing out again with the lack of occasional care,” she said.
“[It can also be hard if] you’re a single parent and you need to attend an appointment that’s not appropriate [for your children] to come to.
“It’s a real shame that they’ve gone from providing for families to hiring this out to a private business. I [didn’t realise] that the council was running a for-profit organisation.”
Responding to Ms Davies’ concerns, a Hume council spokesperson said the decision was made after careful consideration of several factors, including the impact of licensing and regulatory requirements and a significant decline in demand.
Demand for occasional care was already in decline prior to the pandemic, with occupancy in October 2019 falling below 44 per cent, and in February 2020 declining to 26 per cent.
“Long day care [and] occasional child care costs council close to $800,000 per annum. Whilst we receive state and commonwealth rebates, it is still a significant investment,” the spokesperson said.
“Council must regularly prioritise funding of services and infrastructure based on the greatest needs and gaps in providing key services to the Hume community.”
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