COUNCIL FINDS $1 MILLION FOR ARTIFICIAL TURF AND PUTS NEW CHILDCARE CENTRE ON HOLD

Questions on Notice by Greens Councillors have revealed that Council is $1.5 million short of the budget it needs to build a new child care centre in the next financial year, despite the waiting list for childcare growing to nearly 2000.

At the same time, at least $1 million has been allocated to fund artificial turf at Arlington Oval. The Arlington spending is opposed by half of the Marrickville Councillors, but was passed in the draft budget with the support of the ALP and the casting vote of Conservative Mayor Victor Macri.

Greens Councillor Melissa Brooks, whose ward covers Marrickville and Dulwich Hill, said: “The inner-west is in the midst of a massive child-care boom, with a nearly 20% increase in children aged under 2 years in the last 5 years.

“To help address the shortage Marrickville Council committed many years ago to open a new childcare centre for South or West Marrickville. However, the project has been delayed and full funding has not been found, said Clr Brooks.

“A recent major study by Council – the Facilities Need Study – estimated it would cost $2.5 million to build a new early child care centre. With only $1.15 million allocated in the draft 2013-4 the centre won’t be built this coming year.

“Since Council made the commitment to build a new child care centre, the child care crisis has gotten worse.

“Answers to Questions on Notice put by the Greens show that, at the end of April 2013, there were 1,962 children on the early childhood waitlist. More than half of these came from the suburbs of Marrickville and Dulwich Hill.

“Leichhardt Council has found $4 million to build two new childcare centres – and City of Sydney $55 million.

“How is it that the Marrickville ALP and Conservative Mayor Macri can find at least $1 million to install artificial turf for Arlington, but not to fulfil its promise to the parents of Marrickville and Dulwich Hill to build a new child care centre?” said Clr Brooks.

Media contact: Greens Clr Melissa Brooks 0409 235 802

To email your comment on the Draft Marrickville Council Budget email coplan@marrickville.nsw.gov.au . To email the Marrickville Councillors direct email councillors@marrickville.nsw.gov.au. Comments close on 27 May 2013 and the budget is likely to be presented for final adoption at the 18 June 2013 Council meeting (papers available online one week beforehand).

ANSWERS to the Questions on Notice put by the Greens, as tabled at the 21 May 2013 Council Meeting 

MARRICKVILLE COUNCIL CODE OF MEETING PRACTICE – JUNE 2010 Questions may be put to Councillors and Council Employees

Item No: Subject: File Ref:
C0513 Item 25 QUESTION ON NOTICE: CHILDCARE WAITING LISTS 4675/33074.13
From Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore

Answers
1.    What is the current length of time, and number of people/families, on the Council waiting list for child-care?

Early Childhood Wait List
As at the end of April, 2013 there were 1,962 children on the early childhood waitlist. There are 20 new applications received in May that have not yet been entered onto the spreadsheet.

Of the 1,962 children on the wait list:

  • 81.1% or 1,591 are residents of the Marrickville LGA.
  • Of those children; o    1.9% live in Camperdown o    20.3% live in Dulwich Hill o    5.0% live in Enmore o    2.3% live in Lewisham o    34.8% live in Marrickville o    7.9% live in Newtown o    9.9% live in Petersham o    3.6% live in St Peters o    8.4% live in Stanmore o    1.1% live in Sydenham o    4.9% live in Tempe
  • 44.6% are children under the age of 2 years; 21.5% are aged 2 to under 3 years; and 34% are aged 3-5 years.

The length of time a family may wait for the offer of a child care place at an early childhood centre depends on a variety of factors:
•    Council operates a centralised waiting list for all early childhood centres (6 long day care centres and 1 preschool) offering a total of 306 EFT places per week. Offers of places are coordinated through the CFS Operations Administrator based at the CFS office in Petersham Town Hall. Individual centres do not keep a centre-based waiting list or make the offer of child care places. They notify all vacancies to the Operations Administrator as they arise;
•    the demand for child care in Marrickville currently exceeds supply, especially for places for children under 2 years of age. This demand has increased in recent years as a result of the increase in births in Marrickville and the inner west. According to the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the suburb of Marrickville was ranked 18th highest in NSW for the number of births in 2011. A preliminary comparison between the 2006 and 2011census for Marrickville LGA demonstrates a 17% increasein children aged 0-4 yrs since 2006. Council is licensed for a total of 44 places for children under 2 years;

• children on Council’s wait list are offered a place in accordance with the date the wait list application was lodged; places available according to the age of the child, including number of cot places; attendance patterns of vacancies; preferred centres as nominated by parents; the Commonwealth Government Priority of Access (POA) guidelines (for long day care centres); State Government priority groups (for the preschool); and whether siblings of children on the waiting list are already attending a centre (see policy attached);
• in allocating places at a long day care centre, Family Day Care and OSHC, Council must comply with the Commonwealth Priority of Access (POA) guidelines for families to be eligible to access child care benefit fee reductions. These priorities are set by the Commonwealth Government and not by Council. These Guidelines are explained in the attached policy document and detailed below:

Priority of Access Guidelines for Allocating Places in Early Childhood, Family Day Care and OSHC
The Australian Government specifies guidelines for allocating child care places in early learning (long day care) centres, Family Day Care and OSHC centres where there are waiting lists. These guidelines apply to all approved child care services where parents are eligible to receive Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) payments. These guidelines do not apply to the allocation of child care places at Council’s Preschool, where priority is given to children in their year before commencing school (4 year olds). Council’s approved child care services have to abide by these guidelines and inform families about them when they enrol children into care.

Priority for allocating places in child care services:
Priority 1: a child at risk of serious abuse or neglect
Priority 2: a child of a single parent who satisfies, or of parents who both satisfy, the
work/training/study test under Section 14 of the ‘A New Tax System (Family
Assistance) Act 1999’
Priority 3: any other child

Within these main categories, priority should also be given to the following children:
•    children in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families •    children in families which include a disabled person •    children in families which include an individual whose adjusted taxable income
does not exceed the lower income threshold of $39,785 for 2011-2012, or who or whose partner are on income support •    children in families from a non-English speaking background •    children in socially isolated families •    children of single parents

In allocating places at the preschool, vacancies are filled according to date of receipt of the waiting list application; children who will be attending school the following year; siblings; Children and Family Services’ social justice groups, in particular Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander children; CALD and refugee children; children with additional needs. These priorities are set by the State Government.

Council is frequently referred children who are at risk; have disabilities or challenging behaviours; or are receiving family support through an early intervention program such as Brighter Futures. Offers of places to these children must take into consideration the number of children with high support needs already attending a centre; suitability of the physical environments of centres; and capacity of centres to maintain required staff to child ratios and quality interactions with children without incurring additional costs for additional staff support.

Audit Undertaken of Early Childhood Waiting List Policy and Procedure
The Early Childhood Waiting List policy and procedure was recently audited through the SSROC appointed auditor. The auditor assessed all of the current procedures and systems used to manage the waiting list and allocate child care places, including assessment of a number of randomly selected families. The Manager, Governance and Risk recently completed a six month check of the allocation of places to families selected randomly from the wait list.

Outside School Hours Care Wait List
As at 7 May, 2013 there were 179 children on the wait list for before and / or after school care places. Of those children: 43.5% are on the wait list for Wilkins OSHC; 40% are on the wait list for Stanmore OSHC; and 13.4% are on the wait list for Ferncourt OSHC.

At the commencement of the 2013 school year, many children on the wait list could not be offered a place at Wilkins or Stanmore OSHC centres. Other private / community providers are providing some care for these children. However, many of these families have asked to remain on Council’s wait list as their preference is to obtain a place at Council’s OSHC centre/s. The majority of places are offered towards the end of the school year for commencement in the following calendar year.

Family Day Care Wait List
There are currently 320 children on the waitlist. January 2014 is the period when most vacancies occur and places may be offered as children move on to centres or school. Currently there are 38 children on the wait list who require care now and the waiting time for those families would be 6 – 12 months. Waiting times are affected by the number of educators available to provide care. Under the National Regulations, from 1 January, 2014 the maximum number of children that an educator may have in care reduces from 5 to 4 children. This will impact on waiting periods which will increase as a result of the reduction in available places.

2.    What plans are currently underway to expand the number of Council run child-care places in the coming financial year and beyond?

Council initiated the ‘New Children’s Centre Marrickville South’ Major Project in response to the identified need for increased child care services within the Marrickville South area documented through research conducted in 2001 and in the 2006 report ‘Childcare Needs in Marrickville’.

Council planned to construct a multipurpose children’s facility at Marrickville West Public School as part of its suite of Major Projects. The Regional Director of the Sydney Region of the NSW Department of Education and Training (now Education and Communities) signed a letter in 2009 providing in principle agreement for a 20 year lease on accommodation required at Marrickville West Public School to establish an early learning and care centre.

Recently the Principal of the Marrickville West Public School has verbally advised the Mayor / some Councillors that her school numbers have increased and she no longer will have the accommodation available for such a centre to be located at the school.

There are currently no plans to expand the number of Council operated early childhood centres or places in the 2013/14 financial year. The number of places that may be offered is constrained by the size of indoor and outdoor spaces in current centres and the regulatory requirements set out in the National Law and Regulations in relation to building requirements and staffing ratios.

The Community Facilities Needs Research – Strategic Directions for Marrickville report completed in June 2012 and considered by Council at its meeting on 16 April 2013 (C0413, Item 7) recommended that an additional child care centre of 47 places be funded under the S94 Contributions Plan (p. 20 of the report). This centre was to be in addition to any that Council own or are in the process of establishing at the time of this report, including the Marrickville West Child Care Centre currently identified as a Major Project. Options identified in the proposed for the location of this centre included:

  • co-location with community centre on Seaview St site at Dulwich Hill
  • vacant properties
  • new facilities on Council owned parkland

3.    Does Council have plans to construct a new Council run child-care centre? If yes, what are the details of these plans, estimated timeframe and budget allocation?

See response to question 2 above. In relation to budget allocations and phasing, the Finance Manager advises that an amount of $1,199,586 was included in the 2012/13 capital budget for the Marrickville West child care centre. An amount of $1,150,000 was re-phased into the 2013/14 capital budget, leaving an amount of $49,586 in the current budget.

4. How many new or expanded child-care centres has the Council approved in the last 12 months? What are their locations, and are these profit or not–for-profit operated?

The Manager, Development Assessment has advised that:
Approvals in the last 12 months – all private applications but difficult to be absolutely certain who will ultimately run them if/when they do open.

DA 201200020, 18-20 Holbeach Avenue, Tempe, 90 children **
DA201200280, 1/1 Hordern Place, Camperdown, 80 children ***
DA201200171, 396 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, 44 children ***
DA201200184, 1 Denison Street, Camperdown, 70 children ***
DA200800384, 159 Livingstone Road, Marrickville, increase from 42 to 46 chn

*** Not operating yet

5.    Does Council have any particular programs or policies to encourage the growth of not-for- profit childcare centres in Marrickville (not including Council run child-care)?
No.

A full copy of the Answers to the Questions on Notice, including the Policy for Waiting List Management, is available in the Marrickville Council Business Papers for 21 May 2013, as available to download from http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au under ‘Your Council’, ‘Council Meetings and Business Papers’ and ‘Business Paper Archives’.

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