Glen Eira council to close three childcare centres before Christmas

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A council in Melbourne’s south-east is considering closing three childcare centres, leaving dozens of families scrambling to find other vacancies before the new year.

Glen Eira City Council told families and educators via email on Wednesday night of the preliminary decision to close its three early learning centres in Caulfield, Carnegie and Murrumbeena.

Glen Eira City Council has moved to close three early learning centres before Christmas.Credit: Peter Braig

If the decision goes ahead, the centres will close four days before Christmas.

Mayor Jim Magee said the older centres were no longer fit for purpose and were expected to operate at a loss of at least $570,000 per year. He said the council needed to make economic choices that provided value for the entire community.

“We recognise this will be a challenging time for staff and families and are here to support them.”

Caulfield South father-of-three Seraphya Berrin was one of the parents and educators to receive an emailed notice and 30-page document explaining the decision on Wednesday night. He was left “flabbergasted”.

Berrin’s two eldest children attend Caulfield Early Learning Centre, one for five days and the other for three. He had been in the process of enrolling his younger child for a fourth day so he could return to full-time work and was planning on also sending his six-month-old son next year.

Berrin said most childcare centres in the area had already completed their enrolments for next year and he could not understand the urgency behind the council’s sudden move.

“I was flabbergasted. I don’t understand, first of all that they could make the decision and then say they’re convening for consultation. But also all the other childcare centres have already done their enrolments for next year. We have three kids. How are we going to get them in the same place?”

Magee said the council’s early learning centres were established in the 1990s, when opportunities for childcare were limited in the shire. He said the age of the buildings meant they were no longer fit for purpose.

Magee said the council would consider consolidating the centres as part of the consultation but Berrin said the supplied documents said they could not extend his kinder because of an adjacent council carpark.

“They care more about parking than they do about the children,” he said.

“It’s completely unreasonable. It’s crazy. There’s just zero per cent chance we’re going to get all three of our kids into somewhere that just in terms of times of day and days of the week would meet our needs.”

Magee said the council would consult directly with affected families, staff and the community before making its final decision.

Knox City Council announced in August it would close dozens of kindergartens, leaving 1100 children in limbo, instead of investing in upgrades required to service a surge in demand from the government’s free kinder program. Mornington Peninsula Shire was also assessing its operations.

Magee said on Thursday the free kinder was not a factor in the decision.

The number of childcare places in Glen Eira has doubled since 2010 and increased from 3966 places to 5731 places since 2019 – an increase of 44 per cent. Nine further non-council centres now in the planning phase will offer a further 919 places.

Magee said there were 148 families using the three services and data had shown they had dropped to 78 per cent capacity. Other modelling, meanwhile, showed there were 1.5 available childcare places for each child in the area.

“We have confidence that the supply of childcare places will meet current and future demand,” Magee said. “Our centres now account for just 2 per cent of the childcare places available across the municipality.”

More information on the preliminary decision is available on the council’s website.

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