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Slow down childcare reforms: PC

Childcare providers have called on the federal government to slow the rollout of its planned reforms to the sector until it can afford to fund them entirely.

A draft Productivity Commission report into Australia’s early childhood development workforce has found the push to increase carer standards would likely result in a rise in childcare fees for parents.

The Australian Childcare Alliance says that with less than six months to go to the start of the reforms, urgent action was needed to keep prices down and small businesses afloat.

“(We call) on the government to slow down its seismic changes to the long-day childcare sector until it can pay for its reforms – not expect parents to – and that the implementation is managed in bite-sized pieces,” alliance president Gwyn Bridge said.

“We must ensure that quality long-day childcare remains affordable for all families.”

The commission stated the quality of childcare workers was at present highly variable, and that unless the issue was addressed, further spending on vocational education and training for the sector was likely to be wasted.

Furthermore, to meet government childcare participation targets, more workers would be needed in the system.

“The wages of workers in most early childhood education and care employment categories will need to rise because of these factors,” the commission report said.
“The increase in … labour cost increases will mainly be shared by governments and parents.”

The commission predicted that cost increases may force some parents, particularly those on low incomes, to pull their children out of childcare – jeopardising the businesses themselves.

“The National Quality Standard may result in fewer children attending family day care, and hence lower revenue for family day care schemes,” it stated.

The commission recommended the implementation of a regulatory system aimed at quality improvement, additional qualification requirements for before and after school care and occasional care workers be waived and that governments cover the full cost of employing special needs workers at market wages.

Governments should also look at whether incentives designed to boost recruitment and retention rates in rural and remote areas are cost effective, it stated.

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