Rishworth says FDC is under attack from the Federal Government
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development Amanda Rishworth has called for family day care (FDC) educators to “keep (their) fire and passion for early education” while working under what Ms Rishworth termed “an arbitrary and secretive budget savings program” designed to unfairly penalise the FDC sector, during an address to Family Day Care United on the weekend.
Highlighting a series of decisions made by the Federal Government in relation to FDC, Ms Rishworth acknowledged the compliance and regulatory programs which had been introduced to the FDC sector as a result of high-profile cases of fraud, saying there was evidence prior to the reforms of poor quality providers, and that there was no place for poor quality within the system, before adding “there is a big difference between a robust, evidence-based compliance policy, and an arbitrary and secretive budget savings program”.
Having been vocal in the past about the “budget saving program” affecting FDC, Ms Rishworth used the speech to again accuse the Federal Government of unfairly targeting the FDC sector to reach a stated goal of saving $1 billion, citing Senate Estimate remarks in which the Department of Education confirmed the closure target of 150 FDC services to meet the funding goal, confirming the subsidy licence for 151 services had been cancelled.
Ms Rishworth called attention to funding cuts affecting the FDC sector, highlighting the abolishment of the Community Support Program, which provided funding to support administrative and regulatory compliance for family day care providers, as removing $157 million of support from the FDC sector, and the low benchmark price of $10.90 per hour under the new Child Care Subsidy, which is set regardless of the time of day care is provided, as additional evidence of the unfair targeting of FDC.
“This is sending a signal there is no future for high quality providers and educators,” Ms RIshworth said.
The “raft of rolling regulatory and compliance changes” caused significant impact on legitimate service delivery in FDC, Ms Rishworth said, saying that the “blunt regulatory regime” has undermined service viability, and has forced closures that has impacted on the lives of educators, children and their families.
Evidence of the impact of the changes was present in a severe drop in FDC attendance, educator and provider numbers, Ms Rishworth said, saying that between the September 2016 quarter and the September 2017 quarter the number of children attending FDC declined by 13.6 per cent, the number of educators fell by 15 per cent, and the number of approved providers fell from 914 to 773.
Ms Rishworth then outlined what she termed a more collaborative approach being put forward by the Australian Labor Party, should the party gain power in the next election: “We will take a new approach to compliance in FDC that is less adversarial and more consultative, whilst maintaining the integrity of the compliance program,” she said.
“We will replace the automatic assumption that everyone is doing the wrong thing, and every breach is evidence of illegality and criminal intent with a constructive approach that inadvertent, minor administrative errors, errors caused by confusion or lack of support, are addressed sensibly. Where a potential breach is identified, the Department will work with the provider to clarify the issue. No more letter in the mail, with a two week deadline to sanction, with a generic email address to appeal to.”
Calling for collaboration and partnership, Ms Rishworth concluded her address by saying she hoped to work with the FDC sector to “help rebuild FDC that delivers high-quality early education to children”.
The full transcript of the speech can be accessed here.