Camden Council accused of not doing enough to help Family Day Care

Family Day Care educators in Camden have criticised Camden Council for not doing more to keep the scheme affordable after it said it would not subsidise child care when a federal government grant ceases from July next year.

Educators accused mayor Lara Symkowiak of reneging on a lifeline offer she made in August when it was announced the federal government’s funding changes meant Camden would be stripped of $200,000 in funding.

Harrington Park educator Nadia Ciappara said Cr Symkowiak ‘‘misled’’ operators when she previously said she would look at reallocating the budget to ensure the 57 educators continued to provide care to the 460 children who used the scheme.

But this week, Cr Symkowiak denied she said the council would put any funding into family day care.

Asked if she’d been misquoted, Cr Symkowiak said she would not be drawn into ‘‘semantics from what I said months and months ago’’ when she wasn’t armed with all the funding options.

The council voted at a meeting last week to phase out its financial commitment to the scheme over two years — forcing fees to rise by $11.20 to $30.45 from July for a child in for care for 35 hours a week and a further rise to $36.40 in 2016.

Cr Symkowiak said if the council was to absorb the cost, the financial impact over five years would be more than $1 million.

‘‘Council doesn’t subsidise other centre-based care. It’s ratepayers money and we can’t subsidise  a select few with ratepayers money. We don’t have the money to subsidise small business,’’ she said.

Asked if she was happy with the outcome or if she felt more could have been done, Cr Symkowiak said: ‘‘I’m really happy that Family Day Care is continuing. We’ll continue to licence the scheme’’.

And on the prospect of some operators closing because their fees could be deemed unaffordable, she said: ‘‘That’s just scare tactics. Even with the increase Family Day Care would cost less than centre based care.’’

Ms Ciappara said the $11.20 increase touted by the council in the first year wasn’t correct because educators fees would also rise, some of which would have to be passed on to parents.

‘‘We can only soak up so much,’’ she said.

‘‘Family Day Care has always been popular for being affordable and flexible. If they take the affordable out, the scheme loses its attraction.

‘‘We’re feeling flat. The educators walked out of the council meeting feeling more could have been done. We didn’t expect them to fully fund it but give us something afterall the educators and the families using family day care are all ratepayers too.’’