11/11/2008 - 14:06

EOI for non-viable ABC Learning Centres

11/11/2008 - 14:06

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Expressions of interest are open to childcare providers wanting to operate the non-viable ABC Learning centres.

Expressions of interest are open to childcare providers wanting to operate the non-viable ABC Learning centres.

The federal government has committed $22 million to keep more than 400 of the unviable centres open until December 31.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard today called on the childcare sector to register their interest in the future operation of the centres.

"An expression of interest process has commenced to ensure that the receiver has the best available range of options for considering the future operation of ABC Learning centres," Ms Gillard told parliament.

"I encourage any parties ... to register their interest in participating with the future of ABC with the receiver."

The government's childcare taskforce met with the receiver, McGrathNicol, to discuss the situation yesterday.

Ms Gillard said the government would work with the receiver to undertake a detailed review of the operational data of more than 1,000 centres.

"It has been agreed that government representatives, including members of PPB, the insolvency and corporate recovery practitioners, will be embedded working with the receiver in undertaking this work."

"This work is essential and necessary in order to determine the best way forward for all ABC centres."

Ms Gillard said there would be an opportunity for the profit and not-for-profit sector to operate the centres.

"A number of organisations have already contacted the receiver ... with a view of expressing their interest in potentially buying or otherwise operating individual or a number of ABC Learning centres."

The receiver expected most of the centres would operate into the New Year and there is no sale process being conducted for the companies assets.

Meanwhile, peak community childcare body the Australian Community Children's Services (ACCS) has warned that many people will be forced out of the workforce if they cannot access child care after the Christmas break.

Childcare leaders met in Canberra today to discuss the future of the sector, a week after the nation's biggest provider, ABC Learning, went into voluntary receivership.

Parliamentary Secretary for Childcare Maxine McKew attended the meeting where she reiterated the government's $22 million commitment to keep more than 400 ailing centres open until December 31.

"The most important thing is that parents have certainty about the care of their children, today and next week, and ... up to December 31," Ms McKew told reporters.

"The most important thing is that parents are still taking children along to ABC centres across the country, for the most part it is business as usual."

But the ACCS said families needed an assurance that they would have child care early next year.

ACCS national convener Prue Warrilow said many people would be forced to leave their jobs if the centres closed.

"Children and families from the first of January need some assurance that when they come back from the Christmas holidays they have child care," Ms Warrilow told reporters.

"Given the ... nightmare of corporate ownership of ABC the receivers have not a good chance to create something and unravel the issues in six weeks."

Ms Warrilow said many families would need to seek alternative care - which in some communities would not be available.

"In some communities, for example in far north Queensland, ABC is 70 per cent of the market, they don't have any option for (alternative) care.

"It's not going to be a quick fix ... If you close these facilities then these parents won't be able to participate in the paid workforce because there's not going to be alternate care."

Ms Warrilow urged the government to step in and assure parents that services would remain open.

"It's a huge issue for those children and families, with the global financial crisis those people need to continue in the paid workforce.

"What I am hoping is that government in party with the banks and receivers will be good corporate citizens and look at how they can sustain access to services.

"They're children, it's not a cardboard-box production line, these children need to be somewhere, their parents need to be in the paid workforce - it's not going to be a quick fix."

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