A HANDFUL of childcare centres operating on crown land are to have their funding axed by the Barnett government by June 2018.
The department of communities is offloading responsibility for 33 not-for-profit childcare centres across WA, as it’s currently covering $1.4 million of their rent, maintenance and insurance costs.
Fremantle Labor MLA Simone McGurk is shadow minister for community services, children’s and women’s interests and says the cuts are mean-spirited.
“Community-based childcare centres like the Fremantle Early Learning Centre in Beaconsfield are an incredible asset to the Fremantle community,” Ms McGurk said.
“Now we have this sort of community infrastructure being undermined because Colin Barnett has botched his management of the state budget.”
Learning centre chairperson Danielle Loizou says since being told of the cuts, her board has been having to look at cut-backs.
Ms Loizou says being non-profit, the centre was able to create a community feel that couldn’t be replicated in the private sector, and also had greater transparency.
One initiative they’d adopted to give them an edge was to pay staff at higher levels than the private sector, and she says that means they get better-qualified people who stay longer. That may be one area they’d have to cut back on, she said.
Ms Loizou says the state assistance helped them to keep costs lower than the private sector, and being smack-bang in a large Homeswest enclave in Beaconsfield, that was vitally important to some of their clients.
Community services minister Tony Simpson says the sector should have a level playing field, noting there’s 1104 privately-owned centres across the state who get no rent assistance.
“It is not appropriate for the state government, as the childcare regulator, to also own or lease property in which childcare services are offered. These changes will provide an equal playing field across all child care services,” Mr Simpson says.
“My department is working closely with local governments, affected centres and the Department of Lands to identify alternative arrangements.”
Mr Simpson says he doubts any centres will close as a result of the changes.
by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM and STEVE GRANT