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“Deep anger”: Kensington childcare closure leaves parents in the lurch

Spencer Fowler Steen

Kensington parents are “hugely disappointed” by the closure of a childcare centre run by the Kensington Neighbourhood House, after the board declared there was declining demand and lack of funds.

Kensington parent Rachel Wells said the KNH board made the decision without consultation with parents leaving more than 20 families “scrambling” to find alternative arrangements.

“There’s a lot of families in and around Kensington who are hugely disappointed by this decision particularly at a time when we know there is a real lack of childcare facilities available to families,” she said.

“Particularly for women, I think they feel like this was an opportunity to participate in full-time work. This provides and enables them to work without needing the long day care.”

In a letter sent out to a group of parents on November 26, the KNH Board said the decision was not made “lightly”, citing underutilisation, increasing compliance requirements, financial considerations, and the impact of COVID as reasons for closing.

“The board recognises the high quality of the KNH Morning Childcare Program and it’s long history in the Kensington community. However, when looked at in the context of our overall operations, the program is no longer viable,” KNH chair Steven Weir said in the letter.

In crunching the numbers, the board said with 75 childcare spaces available per week, even if they assumed every child would maintain their current days, and everyone on the waiting list took a place, the service would be “nowhere near capacity”.

The board also claimed that 40 per cent of the children enrolled in KNH’s Morning Childcare Program – including those on the waiting list – would be heading to school in 2023 with “few” younger siblings to take their place.

In a letter to the board, Ms Wells expressed her “deep anger” at the decision which has left her, and many other parents, on uncertain waiting lists for other local childcare centres.

“The timing of this could not have been worse and has dealt a devastating blow to many of us,” she said.

“I, for one, am now left with no care for my four-year-old across three days next year. I need to work. I need care for my child. You have just ripped that from under our feet, with no consultation whatsoever and when we have just endured some of the most challenging years of our lives.”

As a small childcare service, the board said that KNH’s service had the same compliance requirements as large childcare providers, placing a disproportionately high burden on the organisation when childcare was not their core business.

The board also said the program had made “significant losses” in four of the past seven years.

“When the morning childcare makes a loss, organisational (community) funds are used to ‘prop up’ the program. This occurs at the expense of activities with far higher participant numbers and greater need for support,” the board said •

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