Council may pull out of Newcastle family daycare service

HOME-based childcare workers are preparing to fight to keep Newcastle’s family daycare scheme in public hands.

Newcastle City Council’s latest service review has recommended selling the family daycare administration offices at Lambton and an ageing playgroup building at Islington used by the carers.

Council management also recommends holding discussions with not-for-profit groups that could potentially take control of the service, which regulates and provides support to about 80 in-home carers.

Robinanne Lavelle said she and many fellow carers were concerned about the possibility the service could change hands.

‘‘It’s an amazing service that’s being provided ... and it could take decades for a new office to build up an understanding of our educators and the system in general,’’ Ms Lavelle said.

‘‘The future of the service worries [carers and parents]. There’s something like 350 children on the waiting list.’’

The council said yesterday it was important that family daycare be maintained.

‘‘The council report to be considered on Tuesday recommends we investigate another provider to take over the scheme, but also outlines other options available,’’ a spokeswoman said. ‘‘It will be up to the elected councillors to decide the way forward.’’

The proposed sale of the buildings would benefit the council by helping to reduce its troublesome backlog of infrastructure maintenance.

But the service itself is not a financial burden for the council.

Current figures show that, from a budget of $1.9million, the council makes a negligible profit of about $4000.

A council report said the council could sell the buildings and continue to operate the family daycare service from another venue.

The review lists five options for family daycare, including selling to a private provider, assisting the existing management to become an incorporated body, or keeping the service.

The report said selling to a private provider, which is not the recommended option, may ‘‘result in a centrally managed facility that is not locally based, which may have a negative impact on local educators and families’’.

The council has stressed throughout the non-statutory services review process that it would not act against the interests of the services, and did not intend to sell them for profit.

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