File size must be less than 2Mb
You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image
File types (jpg, png, gif)
09 June 2021
By Dylan De Jong
A mother of two is concerned she and other parents will be unable to return to work if Edenhope remains without childcare services.
Shelley Hartle has joined a group of Edenhope district parents who are advocating for more childcare options.
The one person who was working under Uniting Wimmera to provide family day care services to Edenhope announced her resignation early last week.
Article continues below
The worker cared for four children each day and three after school.
Ms Hartle is on maternity leave from her role as Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital’s executive assistant and is due to return early next year.
She said it would be a major challenge to return to work if the childcare issue remained unsolved.
“I’m on maternity leave with a 12-week-old baby and a two-year-old in the middle of a lockdown and I don’t have any opportunity for a break,” she said.
“The other impact on my family is on my partner who is trying to start his own small business. It’s impacting him and his ability to work too.”
A parent-led community survey in the town showed there were 38 children who required family day care services.
The survey showed the number would increase to 41 by the end of this year.
Ms Hartle said the impact of losing childcare services was felt right across the community.
“I can’t return to work, we have a school teacher who is seriously considering not returning to work and businesses are closing,” she said.
“We’re losing out in every possible way. We are losing businesses, we are losing skilled people and families from the region.”
Dozens of parents in the town are asking West Wimmera Shire Council to fund a feasibility study and business plan for childcare options in Edenhope.
Ms Hartle said the parents group made a budget submission for $50,000 to develop the plans.
“We as parents decided to take it upon ourselves. We’re asking the council to build a business case that will attract a provider to come and run it,” she said.
“We are not asking the council to build a centre and run it, we’re just asking them to take the issue seriously.”
The parents group, hospital and Edenhope P-12 College have identified possible locations where childcare services could be run to address the issue in the long term.
Ms Hartle said a council-owned senior citizens club room in Edenhope, which was for sale, could be a viable location.
Uniting’s Victoria north and west general manager Annette Kelly-Egerton said the organisation hoped it could find a replacement family day care educator for Edenhope within six to eight weeks.
“We want to assure the affected families and the broader community that we are working as hard as we can to attract more family day care educators,” she said.
Mrs Kelly-Egerton said Uniting was working closely with key employers, including the council and hospital, to recruit family day carers to the region.
“We’re asking locals who have the necessary qualifications and are interested in a career in childcare to get in contact with us,” she said.
West Wimmera mayor Bruce Meyer said the council would discuss the matters in its monthly meeting today.
“The councillors will probably have different opinions – there’s no doubt there’s a need, but that need is right across all towns of the Wimmera,” he said.
“The reality is, that’s not an easy thing for council to run and we are not the provider – Uniting is.”
Cr Meyer said retaining workers was a key issue in running childcare services in the town of 946 people.
“The difficulty is getting qualified people to work. The ratio is normally one to four, so if you have 32 children, you need eight workers and if one of them gets sick, you’ve got to have a back up. It’s not straight forward,” he said.
Hospital chief executive Andrew Saunders said the council and Uniting had an obligation to find a solution.
“We need to know what the shire and Uniting’s obligation to provide day care is. If neither of those organisations want to do it, then they need to release that funding to an organisation that will,” he said.
“The shire has done a lot of work around what the needs are to improve liveability in a small community and one of those things is childcare.”
The entire June 9, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!