After-school care fees to increase

SDRC has decided to continue to operate the only remaining after-school care centre in Stanthorpe.

By Jess Baker

Stanthorpe’s only remaining Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) service will continue to operate until 30 June 2023, but at an increased cost to families.

The fate of the Stanthorpe OSHC centre had hung in the balance since March 2021 when its owner, Southern Downs Regional Council, decided to undertake public consultation on its closure.

A report tabled at last week’s ordinary council meeting stated SDRC released a survey to the community and almost all of the respondents – 96 percent – were in support of SDRC continuing to provide the OSHC service.

“Historically after-school and vacation care has been a competitive market in Stanthorpe with several other operators,” the report read.

“However with the closure earlier this year of Stanthorpe Cool Kids, (the) council finds itself as the sole advertising provider of this service.”

The report noted that 76 families comprising 121 children currently use the Stanthorpe OSHC service.

“In order to continue to provide the service (SDRC) must operate the OSHC at value for money for the ratepayers of the region,” it read.

Council officers have proposed that for 2021-22, after-school care fees will be raised from $19 per child to $25 per child and vacation care fees will be raised from $44 per child to $55 per child.

In 2022-23, families could be paying as much as $30 per child for after-school care and $60 per child for vacation care.

Councillors Ross Bartley and Stephen Tancred expressed reservations about SDRC being responsible for operating the OSHC service, suggesting a private operation might be more appropriate.

“I’m sure if there was an alternative in the community, we wouldn’t be playing in this field because it’s certainly not council core business,” Cr Bartley said.

“But I guess this comes under what we call community obligation. If no one else will do it sometimes we have to step up to do it.”

According to the council report, SDRC expects to lose $30,000 in revenue this financial year due to significant OSHC service operating costs.

But the council could see a $23,000 profit in 2021-22 and a $33,000 profit in 2022-23 if the proposed new after-school and vacation care fees are implemented.

With the centre’s current least at Corundum Street due to expire on 30 June 2021, SDRC is looking to continue operating from a new site at 27 Marsh Street.

“This is the site of the former Stanthorpe Preschool and has all necessary infrastructure currently in place and is located adjacent to the Stanthorpe State School,” read the council report.

“Discussions have been held with the Department of Education and agreement in principle has been reached for the OSHC to operate from the location.”

Council officers noted that the service was included in the 2021-22 draft budget as an ongoing entity.