Monday, December 15, 2008

Charities, banks eye child-care centres - 15th December 2008

A group is interested in taking over all of the 241 ABC Learning child-care centres deemed by the receiver to be unviable.

The Community Sector Banking Service, a joint venture between the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and a consortium of charities and community service agencies, said yesterday that it had had talks with the Federal Government about taking over the centres.

"We have brought together a group of organisations that have an enormous track record in the provision of child care throughout Australia," the executive director of Community Sector Banking, Peter Quarmby told Sky News.

"We've also brought into that some other non-profit organisations that have a great interest in seeing that these child-care centres are maintained in their communities."

Mr Quarmby said the consortium would like the opportunity to look at running all of the centres considered unviable.

"We believe that we have the expertise and the financial models to make this package work. We would always try to take all these businesses to profitability, but because profit isn't the motive in the community sector or non-profit sector, sustainability is prob- ably the thing that we are striving for."

Mr Quarmby said the profits of one centre could be used to support a centre considered unviable at this stage.

"We've been looking at alternative models, so that maybe we may well change the dynamic at some centres. Maybe incorporating the likes of a kindergarten … Maybe looking at utilisation of disability services for young children and having early intervention, which brings another income stream into the centre but also brings new services into that community."

A takeover of the unviable centres may require some government support in the early days, but the consortium's objective would be to limit that as much as possible.

ABC Learning, Australia's largest child-care operator, went into administration and receivership last month, owing more than $1 billion. It had about 1000 centres, of which 241 have been deemed unprofitable.

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