A GROUP of Edenhope mothers have slammed comments made by West Wimmera Shire mayor Bruce Meyer regarding the state of family child care in Edenhope.
In an open letter, the mothers raised concerns about the accuracy of comments made by the mayor and reinforced the need for child care options in west Wimmera.
This comes as the same group of parents put forward a budget submission to West Wimmera Council calling on the shire to conduct a $50,000 feasibility study for a child care centre in Edenhope.
During an interview on ABC Wimmera breakfast radio, Cr Meyer said the Wimmera Development Association was conducting a child care feasibility study for the region, meaning the council would not need to put money towards a study itself.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness denied the organisation was conducting a child care feasibility study but said the group was advocating for helping people return to work.
"There was a misunderstanding somewhere along the line between various people," he said.
"But for the Wimmera Development association we are working with all communities and all local governments because we want everyone that wants to be in the workforce to be able to work and the barriers removed."
The open letter said an expert assessment was needed to determine whether the town needed a dedicated child care centre or not.
"It is highly disconcerting to hear that councillors could vote against our budget submission based on a rumour, without so much as a phone call to confirm it let alone any further probing," the letter said.
"It was heartening to hear you articulate the vast "well-known" need for childcare services in the wider Edenhope region and the "large number of families" calling for action.
"It is not councillors' job to understand how the childcare sector works, nor to make ill-informed decisions about which model will or will not work for our blooming community.
"Your (Bruce Meyer) suggestion that family day care providers could fill Edenhope district's requirements highlights the need for experts to undertake this study."
The open letter also called into question child care provider Uniting Wimmera's efforts to find a daycare provider for Edenhope.
"Claims that Uniting has actively campaigned for staff is dubious - Edenhope's local newspaper, the West Wimmera Advocate, has not been asked to place an advertisement since 2019," the letter said.
"We have experienced, qualified, childcare workers living in the community; they have no desire to provide family day care under Uniting but would relish the opportunity to return to a professional career in a local centre setting.
"A childcare centre, which has been proposed for more than a decade, is a far more sustainable and reliable option."
On Thursday, Edenhope's only family child care provider resigned from the role, leaving the town without any options for extended family day care.
A survey from Edenhope and District Memorial hospital found a need to accommodate 49 children with child care, requiring 14 family day care operations with five relief staff.
If I don't have child care, then I don't work.
Edenhope's former family day care provider could only care for four children at one time, falling well short of the town's child care requirements.
Edenhope mother, Alysha Jacobson, was one of the parents who penned the open letter and said the mayor's comments were disheartening.
"We feel that Bruce's comments don't really align with the community's actual goals. I think the letter shows that we want the council to step up at some point," she said.
"We aren't asking them to build a child care centre, we are asking them for a business plan so that there is a possibility for someone to come in and do it."
Ms Jacobson is a first-time mother who, like the other mothers that penned the open letter, is on maternity leave from work.
She said the lack of child care options in Edenhope had excluded her from going back to the workforce.
"I am a first-time mum who has been lucky to be off work until this point. My family lives in Melbourne so I don't have any back up," she said.
"If I don't have child care, then I don't work. It puts mental and financial struggles directly on my family, and it could be solved relatively easily by something that should be provided to the community.
"The council should be advocating for the community."
On Wednesday, June 9, West Wimmera Shire will conduct a special council meeting on whether to allocate funding toward the feasibility study proposal.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting will be closed off to the public.
Cr Meyer said the shire was working with Uniting Wimmera to find a suitable candidate to provide family day care to Edenhope.
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