17/02/2020 - 09:51

New regional childcare model

17/02/2020 - 09:51

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REED WA has acquired eight struggling childcare centres in regional Western Australia and plans to keep them operational by implementing a cluster model of management.

New regional childcare model
Helen Creed says REED is planning a further four acquisitions to be completed in February and March. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

A new not-for-profit group is making childcare viable in towns throughout the Wheatbelt.

REED WA has acquired eight struggling childcare centres in regional Western Australia and plans to keep them operational by implementing a cluster model of management.

With many centres across WA hard pressed to find staff and remain financially sustainable, REED WA will provide professional services, professional development, governance and policies for the centres from its head office in Narrogin.

The impetus to find a new way of running regional childcare centres came from the Shire of Brookton, which was concerned about the sustainability of shire- and community-run centres, REED WA chair Helen Creed told Business News.

“They were basically seeing that these are small community-based services, parent-run committees that are having difficulty keeping the committees going, they are having difficulty recruiting staff,” Ms Creed said.

“It was just not going to be sustainable. At the same time there was a commitment and an understanding that if you want to have a vibrant regional area in the Wheatbelt, you need people living there, working there, and in order for people to work there, you had to have childcare.”

Brookton Shire contracted consultancy Jill Cameron & Associates with a Lotterywest grant to assess the regional childcare situation and, after consultation with stakeholders in the Wheatbelt, recommended a model used by Lady Gowrie Tasmania.

REED WA was launched in March 2018, with $1.4 million in funding from Lotterywest and the state government to appoint a voluntary board and establish the organisation.

Ms Creed said financial modelling suggested REED would be financially sustainable when it controls 20 centres.

REED is planning a further four acquisitions to be completed in February and March.

“What we are hoping by the end of March, early April we will probably have 15, 16 different services under the REED umbrella and then we will be able to look at other places in the Wheatbelt that are asking us to help them set up a service,” Ms Creed said.

She said the board found it wasn’t until the process of merging was begun that the complexity of the task became apparent.

“That’s why it took us over 12 months before the first service actually came on board and why it now seems to be happening so quickly, because basically we have got the process down to the absolute nth degree,” Ms Creed said.

Kid Central Childcare Centre in Darkan, West Arthur Shire, was acquired by REED in January.

Shire of West Arthur community development manager Kym Harrington said it had been challenging for the small centre to operate because it was difficult to find staff, but was hoping REED’s resources would help.

“We were struggling to get staff, qualified staff, and we were struggling to meet some of the requirements to run a centre,” Ms Harrington told Business News.

The cluster model means one early childhood teacher can assist in the running of a number of centres in the region, ensuring centres meet the minimum staffing requirements.

The centre used to be subsidised by the shire and now that money could be reallocated, Ms Harrington said.

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