Productivity Commission Report Warns on Government Childcare Reforms
2 December 2011 at 9:26 am
Not for Profit advocacy group, the Australian Child Care Alliance (ACCA) says a Productivity Commission Report confirms that child care costs will sky rocket under the Gillard Government’s planned workforce reforms.
The ACCA President, Gwynn Bridge says that with exactly one month to go before the Government’s National Quality Agenda reforms are due to start, the Productivity Commission has produced a report that debunks the Government’s claim that these reforms will only cost parents 57 cents a week.
It has also cast doubt on whether staff can be properly hired and trained in time.
The Productivity Commission Report says out-of-pocket fees for Long Day Care services could be more than 15 per cent higher than they would have been without the reforms.
Bridge says that’s an increase of $47.75 a week and that some parents will quit the workforce because of the Government’s reforms.
She says independent modelling from the long day child care sector shows that costs are likely to increase $13-$22 a day when the full impact of the reforms are felt.
The Report found that full implementation of the reforms will require an estimated 15,000 more workers than would otherwise have been the case.
It says that on average, the level of workers' qualifications will also need to increase. “The wages of workers in those early childhood education and care roles that require relatively high level vocational education and training or university qualifications would be expected to rise as a result.”
The PC Report says that to ensure these cost increases do not reduce access to Early Childhood Education Centre (ECEC) services by low-income families, governments should consider alternative structures for childcare subsidies that improve the targeting of childcare assistance.
The Productivity Commission also expressed concern about the ‘inadequate’ training of staff in preparation for these reforms.
The ACCA says it echoes the concern that inexperienced educators may be inadvertently employed in the rush to up skill staff and increase carer-to children ratios.
The Report also found that volunteer committees may struggle to provide support to the workforce under the planned reforms.
Over 5400 ECEC services (including 2000 preschools and over 1500 LDC centres)
are managed by their community, either by Not for Profit organisations or committees of volunteer parents. Volunteer committees operate Long Day Care centres in all jurisdictions, and preschools in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
The Report says while many services that are managed by volunteer committees do operate
successfully, some smaller services may encounter difficulties in coping with the
regulatory complexity of the ECEC sector.
It says this level of complexity is increasing for preschools, which will have to undergo quality accreditation for the first time under the National Quality Agenda (NQA) reforms.
It says study participants supported the view that in some cases, volunteer-run services —
and preschools in particular — may struggle to provide staff with the support they
require and the new licensing requirements are likely to exacerbate the situation.
“Given the extraordinary responsibility and professional management experience
required of a voluntary committee, it is difficult, if not impossible, to expect these
volunteers, that may have no educational background, to lead pedagogical change in an
early childhood setting. It is impossible to see how this would be considered acceptable
in any other educational system.”
In its recommendations, the PC Report says that given that much of the NQA is intended to improve the pedagogical leadership and management of a service, the role of non-expert volunteer management committees needs to be given more consideration.
It says where voluntary committees currently manage ECEC services, governments
should ensure that professional management support (such as shared management services) is readily available to assist with management and leadership.
The report is the second in a series of three Productivity Commission studies covering the workforces of Vocational Education and Training, Early Childhood Development and Schools.
The full report can be downloaded at http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/education-workforce/early-childhood/report