A public interest test review has cleared the way for Port Phillip Council to continue to operate its early education and care services.
The review, required under the Victorian Government’s Competitive Neutrality Policy, found these services should continue as they are providing more accessible care and quality education for vulnerable children than other providers (community and privately-run centres).
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how critical it is to have a safety net for those who need it most,” Mayor Bernadene Voss said.
“Every child should have access to the best possible start in life. We now have the data to show that transitioning out of these centres would not be in the public interest as it would risk Council achieving its long-standing goal of ensuring that all vulnerable children have access to quality early education and care services.”
Continuing to operate these services would also contribute to the stability of the childcare sector in Port Phillip at this challenging time, Cr Voss said.
Any direct subsidy by Council has been substantially reduced through a range of measures at Counciloperated centres so the cost is comparable to other providers in the City.
Council’s finding will be reviewed annually to ensure there have been no changes which could affect the continuation of these services not meeting the public interest test.
Cr Voss said the decision came at a challenging time for many families and children as Stage Four restrictions mean access to early education and care services is temporarily restricted to permitted workers and vulnerable children.
“As the restrictions are eased, Council-operated centres look forward to welcoming more families and children back,” Cr Voss said.
In the meantime, Council is maintaining a list of online resources for families to access, including online Library storytimes, at At-Home Activities.
Cr Voss thanked everyone who provided feedback on Council’s updated Children’s Services policy, endorsed last year after extensive community consultation.
“We heard loud and clear that accessible and high-quality childcare is important to many in our community. The outcome of this review is a milestone for this important policy which aims to ensure all children, regardless of their background, have access to quality early years services.”