Mixed fortunes for Knox care groups

ANOTHER community house occasional care provider in Knox has been forced to end its programs because of a lack of numbers.

But another has turned parents away and started a waiting list because of increased demand for its three-year-old preschool services.

The Weekly last week reported that Orana Neighbourhood House in Wantirna South was cutting its three-year-old preschool and occasional care sessions due to funding cuts.

The Basin Community House will close its two occasional care sessions from 2013 — again ultimately because of a lack of funding.

But Coonara Community House in Upper Ferntree Gully faces a different situation because of an increased demand for preschool services for three year olds.

Some preschool providers are slashing services for three year olds because of a federal government initiative for 15 compulsory hours of four-year-old preschool from 2013.

Coonara manager Leanne Fitzgerald said the centre would reduce its twice weekly occasional care sessions to one a week, to allow enough room for three and four year old preschool services to run.

Ms Fitzgerald said there had been a "huge demand" for three-year-old programs in 2013 because others had shut, but there was a lack of space. One occasional care session of 15 children would run, but about 10 children were on a waiting list. Ms Fitzgerald said they would be referred to Orana.

The Basin house co-ordinator Heather McTaggart said their service had been struggling with enrolments for several years. The final blow was when the state government abolished Take a Break funding. The centre dropped from four sessions to two a week because it didn't have the subsidies to cover overheads and wages.

Ms McTaggart said the ageing demographic of The Basin area contributed to lower enrolments. The centre also had only a limited amount of space to run the sessions.

When funding was cut, like other centres, The Basin raised fees but Ms McTaggart said they were kept kept as low as possible.

The centre would continue to offer services to young families including playgroup and a new musical therapy group.

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