Plan to set future city goals

Childcare cost and access focus of Bendigo council talks

MAKING childcare in Bendigo more accessible and affordable is among a number of goals as the City of Greater Bendigo begins to develop a new Municipal Early Years Plan.

The city held a forum with 77 local childcare providers and community leaders on Friday morning to begin forming the plan to improve child care and learning outcomes for local children aged zero to eight.

Bendigo Community Health Services senior manager children, youth and families Andie West said it was important to understand the individual needs of families in Bendigo.

DISCUSSIONS: Stakeholders discuss the future of childcare in Bendigo. Picture: PETER WEAVING

DISCUSSIONS: Stakeholders discuss the future of childcare in Bendigo. Picture: PETER WEAVING

"The biggest issue is around accessibility - making services physically accessible for clients," she said.

"Cost is also an issue, as well as the physical location, and making sure services meet clients where the client is at."

The city's early years plan had previously been a part of the Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan, but a report from the Municipal Association of Victoria stated councils needed individual plans.

Early childhood consultant Catharine Hyden was the keynote speaker for the forum, held at The Capital.

Ms Hyden said a city like Bendigo had complex needs in regards to early childhood care.

"Bendigo will have significant diversity, whether that be economic diverse or new arrival families coming to the city," she said.

"There has been a policy shift in recent years as planning for childcare increasingly involves planning for the whole community.

"We now consult with the children themselves too, and plan with them."

The City of Greater Bendigo would release a draft of the plan for public comment in late August or September, with council to consider the plan after that period.

Bendigo region YMCA chief executive officer Michael Bailey said it was great to have so many people taking part in the discussions.

"It provides an opportunity for the community as a whole to have an impact in how childcare is delivered," he said.

"Everyone has different views on the direction it should take."

Bendigo will have significant diversity. - Catharine Hyden

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