Budget cuts threaten future of family day care

Family day care operator Sharon Taylor, with two of her charges  Harriet (2) and Tommy Bowen (5)  and the mayor, Mark Greenhill in the Taylors' backyard in Mt Riverview.

Family day care operator Sharon Taylor, with two of her charges Harriet (2) and Tommy Bowen (5) and the mayor, Mark Greenhill in the Taylors' backyard in Mt Riverview.

They care for 780 children from 623 families in the Mountains, but the future of the family day care network, which provides at-home care for kids aged 0 to 12, is under threat from federal budget cuts.

Council last week resolved to contact local member, Louise Markus, for her support and the assistant minister for education, Sussan Ley, seeking a review of the decision to reduce the funding from July 1 next year.

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, said the family day care network, which operates out of private homes, made child care affordable, particularly for low-income families.

"It liberates families so that they can earn a living ... and make mortgage payments. I think about how hard it might be for some of those families if family day care is withdrawn."

Sharon Taylor, an educator who has been running a family day care business from her Mt Riverview home for almost 20 years, said it was particularly useful for shift workers because of its flexibility. She can take children early in the morning, overnight and on weekends.

"The workers at the RAAF base, emergency service workers, nurses - they all find it suits their working hours as they don't do 9 to 5," she said.

It also allows siblings to remain together, whereas large day-care centres often separate the under twos from older children.

"And the fact that it operates from a home helps. It is a real life setting - that's what they [parents] purposefully seek out sometimes," she said.

At the moment, council receives $210,000 a year in federal government funding which contributes to the operating costs of the service, including wages, staff and educator training and ongoing monitoring of standards.

Without the funding, the support provided to educators would be compromised and fees and charges may have to be increased.

A council spokeswoman said the proposed cut was likely to significantly affect the service's capacity to provide quality child care and/or affect the affordability of the service and thus its accessibility to some members of the community.

Clr Greenhill, who had three of his four children in family day care at some point in their lives, said council was struggling to deal with many of the federal budget measures which have resulted in funding cuts.

"We can't absorb all of these costs. Eventually something's got to give," he said.

Mrs Taylor, who struggled to be heard over the raucous cries of Tommy and Harriet Bowen, said she had started her business when her own two boys were small so she could look after them herself. Since then, she has taken in hundreds of children.

It was a job that she loved, she said. "The rewards are just amazing."

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