Council breaks its silence on child care centre

THE Derwent Valley Council has today broken its silence on the future of the Valley Children’s Centre at New Norfolk after months of closed-door discussions with a potential purchaser. The council last year voted to conduct exclusive negotiations to transfer the centre to a private operator but few details have been shared with the public.

An article published in today’s issue of The Mercury as well as on themercury.com.au has forced the council to break cover. “It has come to our attention that there was an article in the Mercury today, implying that the Valley Children’s Centre is at risk of closing its doors. That is definitely not the case,” said a statement published on the Valley Children’s Centre Facebook page and shared on the official council Facebook page and other pages including that of mayor Michelle Dracoulis.

“Derwent Valley Council is committed to ensuring families continue to be looked after and has been negotiating a transfer of business to a childcare provider for the continued operation of the centre. This is the subject of a report going to Council next Thursday, 25 August.

“Under our current Enterprise Agreement, all staff at the Valley Children’s Centre will have their employment conditions and entitlements protected during and after transition of business for a period of two years, and the service will remain open to support families in the valley.

“Council and Valley Children’s Centre management have been open about this and staff have been kept informed throughout the process. We will update families with further information once details of the transition have been finalised. Thankyou for your continued support,” the statement concluded.

The Mercury article reports the concerns of staff represented by the Australian Services Union, who had learned that the council had ‘slashed’ the centre’s funding and budget projections showed no expected income or expenditure for the centre after the end of this financial year.

In early 2020 the council voted to call for expressions of interest for the future operating of the Valley Children’s Centre in the lead-up to the withdrawal of the then current operator, Uniting Care. The proposal was to find a new operator to run the centre as a contractor but it appears to have since changed direction to involve the sale of the centre. The most recent updates by council management to councillors have taken place in closed meetings. At one of those meetings, councillors approved exclusive negotiations with one party, who has not been publicly identified.

Pictured: The Valley Children’s Centre in Ring Rd, New Norfolk.

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