Shire adopts new Early Years Plan
THE Surf Coast Shire council has adopted its final Municipal Early Years Plan (MEYP) for the next three years with some changes driven by community feedback.
The MEYP is a whole-of-community, whole-of-system, local area plan for the development and co-ordination of early years programs, activities and other local community development processes that affect children and their families.
It provides an overview of the Surf Coast Shire’s early years population and the service system supporting it, considers sector developments, and draws heavily on community engagement and service provider input.
Released for public comment in September 2021, the draft MEYP was partially revised based on responses to the shire’s annual parent and family survey.
Major changes include:
- To address the shortage of affordable childcare, the scope was expanded to include Occasional Care and other options with a focus on under three-year-olds, rather than only Family Day Care
- A community-wide approach to affordable child care services by reinstating the place based Early Years Reference Groups for professional networking and local problem solving rather than a single Early Years Representative Committee
- Accelerating the rollout of additional hours in three-year-old kinder to 2023 in line with growing demand, subject to financial analysis
- Reviewing the Kindergarten Infrastructure Service Plan this year rather than 2023, and
- To address the attraction and retention of qualified staff, student placements have been included to create transition pathways into the Surf Coast Shire workforce.
A majority of councillors resolved to adopt the final MEYP 2021-2025 at their December 14 meeting.
Cr Kate Gazzard said the MEYP was a comprehensive plan and addressed the different priorities in each area of the shire.
“We know that early childhood intervention and any services provided in early childhood are the greatest investment we can make in our community, particularly to reduce crime, substance abuse, domestic violence, unemployment and homelessness later in life – this is the time to act, in the pre-school years.”
Cr Gary Allen said developing the MEYP was not mandated, but he regarded the plan “as the most important to be considered by this council since we were elected, in spite of our important but limited role in this space”.
Cr Paul Barker was the lone vote against the motion.
“While I don’t have an issue with any of the objectives of this plan, what I do have objections to is the intervention this plan seeks to have on the market,” he said.
“There will always be a shortage of affordable child care; it’s simple economics.”