New funds to ensure child care quality
Aug 23, 2016 | News | by Learning Press staff
The Government has committed $61 million to fund childcare centre inspections in an effort to speed up compliance with quality benchmarks.
The move follows the release of a Mitchell Institute report in April recommending that the National Quality Framework, the regulator for early years care, was better resourced and implemented.
The report also recommended that all early learning centres should be required to hit national quality benchmarks by mid-2017.
Each of the states is responsible for delivery of early childhood education as a signatory to the National Partnership on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care, but overarching policy decisions rest with the federal Government.
Education minister Simon Birmingham said: “Ultimately this funding is about delivering better education and developmental outcomes for young Australians and giving families confidence in the services they are using.
“The $61.1 million for service quality is in addition to the Turnbull Government’s child care reforms which include more than $3 billion in additional funding to give around one million families more affordable, accessible and fairer child care.”
The funding represents a marked change in rhetoric from the minister, who in April said: “Our priority is to provide assistance that helps families, not state and territory bureaucrats.
“State regulatory costs are a pittance compared to the billions the Turnbull Government provides to help families with the cost of care and, although we give the states some support for their costs, they are more than capable of meeting the remaining costs themselves.”
The Mitchell Institute’s Quality Education For All report identified child care provider accreditation as an area in urgent need of extra resourcing, with co-author Bronwyn Hinz saying: "So far, three-quarters of services have been assessed, but a quarter still haven't been assessed.
"Of those that have been assessed, one-third were not meeting the national standards.
"We're moving in the right direction, but we haven't provided enough support to those services, especially those catering for kids with greater needs."
The report says work to close the growing gap between Australia’s advantaged and disadvantaged children should begin in pre-school.
“The early years are a critical window for building foundations that enable all children to become creative, entrepreneurial, resilient and capable learners,” it states.
“Yet current policy settings are not meeting the needs of the children who stand to benefit most.”
While the Coalition has earmarked an extra $3 billion for childcare, the package’s fee rebates for families have been delayed until 2018 following senate objections to a lack of detail on ‘safety net’ provisions and reductions in family tax benefit used to fund the changes.
Senator Birmingham said: “I encourage families with children entering early education and care to visit www.startingblocks.gov.au for information about assessments and ratings for local child care services.”