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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Children’s services at crisis point

Hundreds of Eurobodalla families are waiting months or even years for local childcare as centres struggle to recruit and retain staff.

A grim picture was painted at a children’s services forum on Saturday, run by Eurobodalla Council, which discussed the emerging crisis for childcare services and children of the shire.

About 394 local children are on waitlists for care and almost all centres have staff vacancies. Some have even been forced to close their doors with little notice to parents due to Covid compounding staff shortages.

Eurobodalla Council’s community development manager Kim Bush said a range of factors were at play in the sector; lower-than-average pay rates for qualified staff, no locally-based training options, a national operating framework placing additional administrative burden on centres, as well as a distinct lack of health and support services for families in the region.

She said the impacts went far beyond mums and dads scrambling to find care – there were flow-on effects to the mental health of staff, children’s wellbeing and development, and to our local economy.

“Research is clear that a child’s early learning environment plays a key role in their development, and those who go without access to early education are automatically behind when they start school,” Ms Bush said.

“Add to this an increase in children presenting with behavioural issues, and little to no access to appropriate allied health services.

“If you invest in the early years you get a better community outcome long-term – instead we’re continuing a cycle of disadvantage.”

At Saturday’s forum representatives from care centres, health and non-profit organisations workshopped ideas for a brighter future. Priorities detailed in the resulting action plan include advocating for government subsidised wages, more collaboration across the industry, and reinstating early childhood courses at the local TAFE, to name a few.

“We’re calling for more government investment in our most precious assets – our children – and for universal principles so everyone can access early learning,” Ms Bush said.

“We’re at a moment in time when our sector needs leadership. Council will be demanding action and advocating to anyone who will listen.”

Meanwhile, as local services come together on advocacy and solutions, a notice of motion will also be presented to Tuesday’s Council meeting on the issue. Eurobodalla’s Deputy Mayor Alison Worthington will seek councillors’ support for the Thrive by Five campaign, an initiative of the Minderoo Foundation calling for national early learning and childcare reform.

The motion seeks to write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge, the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Youth Amanda Rishworth, and to our local federal MPs Kristy McBain and Fiona Phillips seeking bipartisan support for the campaign’s objectives.

Above: Representatives from early learning centres, health services, non-profit organisations and politicians came together in Batemans Bay on Saturday to discuss the emerging crisis for the childcare services and children of the Eurobodalla.

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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