Federation Chamber - CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS - Child Care

16 October 2018

 I rise today to speak about the government's overzealous crackdown on family day care providers. Let me say from the outset that there's been some dodgy and illegal behaviour in the family day care sector, and the crackdown on that is valid. But I worry that an entire sector is now suffering for the crimes of a few. It is casting the net so widely it is now ensnaring honest, quality providers.

Faduma Jama, a brilliant young woman who runs the East African Women's Foundation, came to tell me about the effect this is having on the sector and her community. Over the past five years the family day care sector has been subjected to numerous legislative changes and unfairly applied compliance measures. These changes have netted the government $2.8 billion since 2014, with another $1 billion to come—a very significant amount when family day care only comprises 13.9 per cent of early education services. That is money that is now gone from the provision of early childhood education services. It has resulted in a significant number of family day care service providers losing their funding approval because of minor data errors and issues that service providers are not able to control. Shockingly, some services are being breached for error rates that are the equivalent of 0.1 per cent and many who lost their approvals were assessed as running services meeting or exceeding the national quality standards.

Can you imagine the effect this has had on so many people—workers who lost their jobs, parents who lost their care arrangements and kids who are missing their carers? This is happening on a huge scale. Thousands of educators all over the country are out of work. Many of these educators are women from low-socioeconomic and/or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. For many women in the sector, early education is their first qualification and their first job, and it has had a huge effect on these women's self-confidence. They establish small businesses serving local families. They provide flexible, affordable and culturally appropriate care. Now so many have lost all of that.

As a result of the family day care compliance crackdown, East African Women's Foundation have indicated women in their network are now dealing with increased stress due to dealing with Centrelink, discrimination in getting work, an inability to pay bills, increased domestic violence rates, increased instances of homelessness and increased mental health issues—all because of an overzealous crackdown.

I am proud that Labor have said that we will adopt a reformed, more targeted and more collaborative approach to compliance. But this is too urgent for the government to ignore. They must assist the genuine providers who have been caught up in their crackdown. For the children, for the workers and for the parents who have had their lives turned around by family day care, this is way too important.