Children’s services in Wingecarribee Shire have been given a short-term reprieve after councillors voted to continue their operation for a further three years, but staff and parents remain fearful of the long-term future of these vital community services.

The vote followed a secretive council meeting in September, which excluded staff, parents, and members of the public, where management had recommended the closure of the Family Day Care services, which council has coordinated for 32 years, and the Out of School Hours Care program that has run for 25 years.

In a victory for local parents and union members who have been campaigning to save the services, councillors last week voted to continue operating the children’s services for three years and ensure that a review to be undertaken into the services will include genuine consultation with staff and families.

The United Services Union, which represents staff at Wingecarribee Shire Council, congratulated councillors for learning from the recent flawed process by ensuring this future review will be conducted in an open and transparent manner.

“While our members welcome the fact that Wingecarribee Shire has committed to continue operating children’s services for a further three years, this short-term reprieve fails to provide certainty for local families or hard-working staff,” USU general secretary Graeme Kelly OAM said.

“The highly-flawed process we have just gone through, where a secret report was produced without consulting staff or the families who utilise these services, which was then debated behind closed doors, cannot be allowed to happen again.

“It is wonderful that councillors took on board these concerns from the union, our members, and parents, and agreed that the future review will involve genuine consultation and be released in full to local residents before any decision is made on the future of these vital services.”

Mr Kelly said it appeared certain senior managers at the council were driving the push to shut children’s services, which would involve the loss of seven permanent jobs and 10 casual positions, and that they had been utilising a secretive process to try and hide that goal from the public.

“Families and staff are very concerned that there is an agenda driven by certain senior managers to close these services, and that they will use this future review to try and achieve that goal,” he said.

“This is why the commitment that this review will be open and transparent, with all stakeholders having an opportunity to participate in it, is so important.

“As part of providing transparency, we are also urging Wingecarribee Shire to make public the report that led to this situation, ensuring the public is aware of exactly what is being recommended and why.”

Further information: Rudi Oppitz 0409 662 460 or Tim Vollmer 0404 273 313