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Disturbing picture of childcare emerges

An alarmingly high number of childcare services are failing to meet basic hygiene, safety and education standards, the latest snapshot of the sector shows.

The group overseeing childcare accreditation in Australia has released statistics on the number of services that applied to it during the second half of 2010.

Of the 1100 long-day care centres that applied for accreditation, 170 had failed to meet learning, safety and hygiene accreditation guidelines.

A quarter failed to ensure potentially dangerous objects, including plants, were out of children’s reach, the National Childcare Accreditation Council report shows.

About one-third did not have safe food practices or make toileting a positive experience for children in their care, while 20 per cent didn’t control the spread of disease or maintain immunisation records.

Of the 700 out-of-school childcare facilities that had applied for accreditation, 30 were denied for reasons including poor food handling and hygiene practices.

10 failed to meet food-handling standards, while five had unsafe environments for both children or staff.

Six of the 70 family daycare centres that had applied for accreditation failed for health-and-safety and hygiene reasons.

Childcare Minister Kate Ellis said parents with children in care would be “horrified” by the statistics.

“Parents deserve to know that (their children) are safe and well looked after,” Ellis said.

“Although the data shows many childcare centres were doing well, far too many are failing basic standards.”

The figures back federal Labor’s plan to lift childcare quality standards through a framework that will be implemented from mid-2011, Ellis said.

The framework, supported by state and territory governments, will require providers to employ more and better qualified staff.

Some within the sector argue the new rules will result in fee increases of as much as $25 a day, sparking calls by the federal opposition for a cost review of the plan.

The Federal Government has set aside $130 million to help offset any increased costs associated with the roll-out.

The vast majority of childcare services in Australia are accredited and a service must achieve a rating of satisfactory or higher in all areas to receive accreditation.

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