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Reform ‘to cost parents’

Saturday, 29th October, 2011

By Erica Visser

Parents will be left struggling as changes to childcare reform force one in three centres in NSW to consider closing, according to Child Care NSW. 

The new national framework is due to be introduced on January 1 and would affect long day care, family day care, preschool and after school hours care.

The new Commonwealth legislation increases staff to child ratios and raises the minimum qualifications for staff at child care centres.

Director of Happy Day Preschool, Vicki Wallace, said the reform did aim to improve the quality of child care but that it would have a detrimental affect for working parents.

“The cost will be passed onto the parents, that’s a definite,” Mrs Wallace said.

“Really the cost of child care does prohibit people and particularly mothers who want to return to the workforce.

“Broken Hill is identified as having a skills shortage so shouldn’t we encourage women to return to the workforce?”

The Australian Childcare Alliance claims that the average childcare centre may have to put its fees up by $13 to $22 a day per child.

Mrs Wallace said that she disagreed with the Australian Child Care Alliance’s allegation that the reforms had been “rammed through”, but that the changes will be tough on unprepared centres.

“You’re not looking at something quick. These reforms were in the making for years and years,” she said.

“We actually planned for the new reforms within our budget last year.

“If you suddenly have to pay for another staff member it would affect you. Some centres may find it too difficult.”

Happy Day Preschool employs three qualified early learning teachers and several staff who have or are studying for diplomas. 

Mrs Wallace said that community-based child care centres would have an easier time staying afloat than those which are profit-based, such as new proposed centre BusyKids. 

Fees at Happy Day Preschool might still rise next year, but that was “not necessarily related to reforms,” she said.

Recent results from a Child Care NSW survey show that nine out of 10 centres with two to three-year-olds will raise their fees as a result of the changes to staff-to-child ratios. 

Mrs Wallace said that while she supported reforms to guarantee quality childcare, it was up to the Federal Government to provide support for its initiative. 

Last week the Australian Childcare Alliance called for the Government to delay the introduction of the reforms.

“Our message is simple - do not impose such seismic changes on staff, centre providers and families with such little time, counselling, training, direction and financial support as is being offered,” said President Gwynn Bridge. 

“Our children are indeed our future and we need all the support we can give them.” 

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