I raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, and the action I seek is for the minister to visit my electorate and meet with representatives of the Heidelberg Occasional Care Centre. There are significant concerns held with regard to cuts to the occasional child-care funding, which has in the past amounted to $1.9 million annually. Those funds were provided by the previous Labor government to cover the full funding of the program, which is a very significant program in my electorate.
I will outline to the house the views on this issue of Melanie Roberts, who is the president of the Heidelberg Occasional Care Centre, which is located in Heidelberg Heights in my electorate.
Melanie Roberts notes that the Heidelberg Occasional Care Centre is very concerned about the current state government’s decision to cease the Take a Break funding as of the end of this calendar year. She says that will greatly affect the services the centre provides and will impact on around 90 families who use the occasional child-care centre at Heidelberg. Obviously there are a range of services provided through the Take a Break occasional child-care program, which allows parents and guardians to participate in activities, including employment and study, recreational classes and voluntary community activities, while their children are socialising and interacting with other children in an early learning environment.
The cuts to funding will mean that families across Victoria will be unable to access affordable, community-based occasional child care that would enable them to undertake tasks that benefit families and to take a break.
What I think is important is the additional benefit to local communities of these sorts of services that are offered in the Ivanhoe electorate and in many other suburbs — there are some 220 occasional child-care services right across Victoria — which is the provision of support to local families in those suburbs, giving them an opportunity to socialise, to mix and to have the support of other people who have families in the area.
Family responsibilities can often be a disconnecting experience for people with young kids, and these occasional-care programs, in particular the Take a Break occasional child-care program, provide opportunities for neighbours and people in the suburbs to support each other and to spend some time together. Those mutual supports really strengthen local communities.
I repeat that the Heidelberg Occasional Care Centre would be keen to meet with the minister and discuss the reinstatement next year of funding for this program, which is vital to the Ivanhoe electorate.