Closure of child-care facility ‘devastating’

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

A Clutha childcare centre is closing due to Covid-19-induced financial hardship after a decision parents described as “devastating”.

Methodist Mission Southern has been forced to close the Milton Little Citizens child-care centre after losing almost $1 million in revenue.

The facility will close its doors tomorrow after two years in operation, forcing the parents of about 20 children to find alternative options.

Methodist Mission Southern director Laura Black said the decision was made with “tremendous sadness”, but was necessary due to significant financial losses during and after the lockdown.

“The Milton Little Citizens is a fantastic space with fantastic staff,” Ms Black said.

“It was one of the ventures we were trying to build up to being financially viable.

‘‘But after Covid hit these were the first we had to look to get rid of, as we do not have the cash flow any more.”

She said Government assistance had reduced the financial losses to about $500,000, but this was still too much to bear for a non›profit organisation.

Methodist Mission Southern covered Otago and Southland, offering various services and programmes alongside daycare, including driver licence training, literacy and numeracy training in prisons, and education for new parents.

“When you take that kind of a financial hit you have to look at everything,” Ms Black said. However, no other services would be closed for the time being.

Another Little Citizens daycare facility existed in Dunedin, but had escaped closure.
Ms Black said there were seven staff at the Milton centre, under a mix of full and part-time employment.

“Those roles will be coming to an end.”

For Milton resident and mother Davinia Forrester, the news has been crushing.

“I’m devastated,’’ Mrs Forrester said.‘‘I received a phone call telling me the doors would be closing at the end of the month.”

Her daughter Thea was 2 and it would be difficult to find another daycare centre at short notice, she said.

“Milton was in desperate need of another daycare when the Little Citizens opened up. That need is still there.

“There are only limited spaces available at the other daycares here.”

While she did not hold out much hope, Mrs Forrester hoped “something could be done if the right people knew about it”.

“We need to let people in the community know what’s happening.”

Milton mother Tessa Cockburn also found the news difficult to accept.

“It’s just devastating having to find another daycare that matches the quality of this one,” Mrs Cockburn said.

It would be difficult to give up the relationships that she and 2›year›old Fletcher had developed with the staff, parents and other children.

Ms Black said there was still hope, however, that the building space could still be used for the benefit of the Milton community.

“We will consult with the community to find out if it is still a usable space.

‘‘We are hopeful that something can be done there.

“But this week is all about the families and staff.”