LET DOWN: Chinchilla mother Bec Huth, pictured with daughter Indiya, says many families are running out of options when it comes to after hours care in town.
LET DOWN: Chinchilla mother Bec Huth, pictured with daughter Indiya, says many families are running out of options when it comes to after hours care in town. Kate McCormack

School parents left in the lurch

CHINCHILLA parents have been left high and dry after childcare service Camp Australia announced it would no longer offer an after-school care program at St Joseph's Catholic school days after taking bookings.

Dozens of parents have been left scrambling to find new after-school arrangements for their children before the 2019 school year started.

Chinchilla mother and former childcare operator Bec Huth told the Chinchilla News many parents have been left in the lurch by the shock announcement.

"A number of parents are running out of options,” Mrs Huth said.

"I know a lot of parents were hoping they could come to rely on the Camp Australia's service this year.

"There aren't many other after school care services in Chinchilla, and there's next to no vocational care options.

"For families with two parents in full time work, it can become an overwhelming handful.”

Other parents took to social media to express their frustrations, with a number stating Camp Australia had been taking enrolments up until a week before school commenced.

Limited before and after-school care options mean a number of parents have been left with no other choice but to rely on family members or leave work early to collect their children.

Camp Australia customer experience and marketing manager, Carole Priol, told the Chinchilla News the decision to close was due to "service viability and sustainability concerns due to low and inconsistent attendance numbers”.

Despite the shortage of numbers, allegations were made Camp Australia was turning away Chinchilla State School students.

Ms Priol said this was not the case.

"Children from Chinchilla State School could attend and book in.. but they needed to be escorted to the service. Camp Australia staff were not available to do this,

"Camp Australia communicated to the school and parents concerned back in September and have attempted more than three times to hold a meeting with the State School to try and work out a solution to escort children from there to St Joseph's.

"To date, we have received no response or interest from the (state) school.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said Camp Australia did not advise the regulatory authority it intended to cease operation at St Joseph's until January 23, 2019.

Camp Australia stated they were willing to continue the service if there were sufficient numbers and indicated that children from schools other than St Joseph's would need to be transported to the service.

The department said it will work with affected families to identify alternative available services in the area. 

Ms Priol said staffing difficulties were also a contributing factor to the services closure.

"Educators (had) to come from Toowoomba and stay at the company's expense to ensure the educator to child ratio was maintained.

"While we are sorry families relying on our care now have to find alternative options, the school and Camp Australia both agreed the service was not sustainable in the long term.”

Camp Australia claimed it had made several attempts to contact St Joseph's between early December and mid-January to be able to formalise the service closure but only received a response late last month.

"This means we have not been able to complete our internal service closure process in time and this is why parents could still enrol until recently,” Mr Priol said.

"This has now been rectified and we have now communicated to and updated parents who have registered.”

One parent said she hadn't received any communication from Camp Australia, other than a brief email in the days before the service stopped letting her know the Camp Australia's arrangement with the Catholic school had ceased on December 7, last year.

St Joseph's acting principal Melissa Hobson said Camp Australia made contact during the school holiday period via a message on the school answering machine.

"Communication was not received about the closing of the service until we returned to school. This was via email.” Mrs Hobson said.

Mrs Hobson said St Joseph's would survey parents over the coming weeks to gain an accurate picture of families needs.

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