Day care and other family services are attracting greater numbers in parts of the Greater Hume Shire, and that growth will be key amid changes to federal funding.
A council review shows the number of five to nine year-olds in the shire grew between 2011 and 2016, and there were 73 more families.
Greater Hume Children Services provides care to about 600 families across the shire and Wodonga-based Community Early-years Child care operates long day care in Henty and Walla.
There are also incorporated preschools and other early learning services.
Council’s corporate and community services director David Smith said the biggest growth was in the southern part of the shire.
“Some services have vacancies but most are saying they have a good number of kids, even the little ones like Burrumbuttock,” he said.
“They’re all very passionate about what they do, and some had their worries around funding.”
All services in the region, public and private, are currently transitioning into a new federal funding model.
Council has previously received $250,000 for operations under the community support program, which will cease on June 30.
Mr Smith said the government had been planning changes for a number of years and council had been preparing to lose the funding.
“We need to be completely self-sufficient, and we’ve been working on efficiency – we’ve had to increase our levy for educators, but we’re still competitive,” he said.
GHCS acting manager Deanne Burr said the criteria for government support was now more strict, for both services and parents, and families currently receiving support would have to reapply for the new funding.
“People should be aware they need to have a working MyGov account, and look out for notifications telling them what action they need to take,” she said.
“Without them doing their part, we can’t apply for their benefit.”
From July 2, one child care subsidy will replace the two current child care payments, which is capped for wealthy families.
An ‘activity test’ is among factors determining the subsidised hours families receive.
Low income families on $66,958 or less a year who do not meet the activity test will be able to access 24 hours of subsided care per child per fortnight, as part of a $1.2 billion ‘child care safety net’.
Mr Smith said staff at the GHCS had been working with families on the changes.
Anne Bowler, manager of Community Early-years Child care, said the government was supporting their transition but there were still details to work out.
“The funding is moving to parents paying a fee and parents entitled to a subsidy from the government,” she said. “For services like long daycare it’s not a change, for our mobile services it’s a change in that where we received a lump sum subsidy, it will now be based on the fee component.
“In relation the general cost of running a service, is that going to be viable when you only have funding for eight children?
“It’s an unknown world in terms of sustainability into the future.”
Ms Bowler said there were no immediate plans to stop mobile services in places like Kergunyah, Mitta, Walla and Walwa, but they had to be transferred to a centre-based model.
Indi MP Cathy McGowan, who outlined concerns about the funding shift in 2017, said this move from mobile to centre-based was an adjustment that shouldn’t have had to happen.
A new federal funding model for child care comes into effect in July, but many services in the North East and Southern NSW are uncertain what it will mean for them.
And Indi MP Cathy McGowan maintains concerns with the new model she outlined in 2017.
Ms McGowan said changes that have been made to services at Community Early-years Child care in anticipation of the new funding should not have had to happen.
“What Anne Bowler and Rodney Wangman have done is made the best out of a bad deal and moved the mobile services into centre-based care; we have centres now at Kergunyah, Mitta and Walla, which is fantastic on their part, but doesn’t do what mobiles did,” she said.
“The mobiles took into account moving demographics; if you had a lot of kids in one area but not after three or four years, you could move.
“We said this would happen, that we’d lose the mobility of it all – it’s frustrating.”
Ms McGowan said she planned a meeting with Ms Bowler in the coming week.
“The lack of detail about the changes is what’s making it really difficult for organisations like Anne’s,” she said.
“The government don’t pay enough attention to regional areas and making sure services work here,” she said.
Minister for Education Simon Birmingham said the government’s early learning and child care overhaul would deliver more support for nearly 5000 families across the electorate of Indi by better targeting the new child care subsidy to working low and middle income families.
“The new community child care fund will help services in disadvantaged areas to offer more affordable and accessible care for families who need them most, especially in regional areas,” he said.
“The CCCF also includes support to help mobile services transition into the mainstream system so families for the first time can get government subsidies while retaining their unique characteristics.
“In the electorate of Indi, 34 services will receive $4.9 million in funding through the new CCCF on top of funding from the new child care subsidy.
“It targets assistance to vulnerable and at-risk children and their families and supports services in disadvantaged, regional or remote communities to address barriers to providing valuable child care and early learning.
“This will help all children get a stronger start in life while also supporting parents into work.”
He said mobile services would still be able to operate flexibly, and those previously funded through the budget-based funding program would receive grants from the CCCF in acknowledgement of the extra costs associated with operating services in sparsely-populated regional and remote areas.
Collaboration to increase between children services in Greater Hume
Greater Hume Council will increase the link between the nine child care services in the shire in a bid to provide training opportunities and other support.
The council’s centre in Jindera, officially re-branded by mayor Heather Wilton on Thursday, is the only daily service and also provides a governance structure for approved educators to operate from their homes.
A review into services found providers would benefit from collaboration between committees of management.
It outlined funding environment was a challenge, with one service not being able to access funded places and families subsequently going into Albury for care.
Some services were also in need of upgrades, such as Burrumbuttock, which is located in a former church hall that has structural issues.
David Smith, who led the review, said funding could be a challenge due to criteria.
“For them to get funding for extensions or improvements they have to show there’s a need there, that they’re bursting at the seams basically,” he said.
“Most of them are maintaining their numbers, but they’re certainly not getting inundated.
“If they could get some money to fix up buildings, they would be really happy, but they’re all very passionate about what they do.”
Jindera preschool has expressed interest in providing long day care services for children aged up to six and childcare services will also be expanded in Walla following a community-driven campaign supported by council.
Community Early-years Child care will operate the service out of a new council-owned building.
“We currently operate a mobile service in Walla and that will move across to a centre-based model, the community have receive some funding from the state and federal government to contribute to building a new early childhood hub,” CEC manager Anne Bowler said.