Out of school care service may close

FAMILIES affected by the possible closure of the Ballina Out Of School Hours care service will have a chance to hear first-hand what is going on and have some input into solutions when three public meetings are held this week.

The Ballina District Community Services Association (BDCSA), which operates the service at Ballina, Wollongbar, Alstonville and Lennox Head, has been running the program at a loss for eight years and is now $93,000 in debt.

Lennox Head mother of two Wendy Brown said she would be disappointed to see the service close down.

“I'm in a bit of shock actually,” Ms Brown said.

“There are going to be a lot of people who are affected.

“I've got two boys who go there on Thursdays and Fridays because I'm at work.

“It will be hard to find alternatives, especially for families in Lennox Head who would also need to find transport for their children.”

Over 200 families utilise the Out Of School Hours care service.

BDCSA executive officer Dianna Howell said talks had been held with other groups and it was hoped they could step in to take over the services.

“We would like to hang on to the middle of next year, with help from government. We need 12 months to transition properly,” she said.

A meeting was held between BDCSA and Page MP Janelle Saffin, Ballina MP Don Page, and Ballina mayor Phillip Silver last Friday.

Ms Saffin has since been in contact with an organisation called Network of Community Activities, the main body for the Out of School Hours services in NSW.

“I had a very positive conversation with the person who runs it, that help is available. They can send someone to help with a transition,” Ms Saffin said.

“We're trying to help the community find a solution to a community problem and I feel hopeful that someone else will step in and take over the service.”

Mr Page said there was a broader issue to come out of the meeting.

“We need to better utilise school facilities for after-hours care and vacation care. At the moment it hinges on the attitude of the principal. If the principal is not supportive it doesn't happen. My view is it should be State Government policy. The infrastructure is there on the ground and it should be able to be used after hours” she said.

The public meetings will be held in Lennox Head Public School on Tuesday from 6.30pm, the Ballina Youth Activities Centre on Wednesday at 5.30pm, and at Wollongbar Public School on Thursday at 6.30pm.

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