After school care crisis
AUSTRALIA is in the grip of an after school care crisis. Tens of thousands of children are enrolled in services that have been ruled substandard, while others are on waiting lists because schools can’t make space available.
A Sunday Telegraph investigation has found 1313 of the 4800 before and after school care providers that have been rated do not meet the government’s quality standards.
And one of the worst offenders is Australia’s largest provider, US private equity owned Camp Australia with 176 of its 665 services not meeting quality standards.
Camp Australia services have received 27 fines. Other penalties, compliance orders and regulatory actions have also been applied. These relate to children leaving centres without staff noticing, overcrowding and services keeping two sets of books to deceive regulators.
In addition to falling short of quality ratings, many centres have been fined or had regulatory action taken for rule breaches that include children being smacked, having their mouths washed out with soap and being locked in dark rooms. Taxpayers spent more than $740 million on subsidies for outside school hours care in the 2018-2019 year but are not getting value for that money because of poor standards.
Childcare providers said the federal government’s decision to axe its $20 million financial contribution to the enforcement of childcare quality standards in the 2018 budget has resulted in fewer inspections.
In many cases the failure to meet quality standards is repeated year after year with no action taken.
“Our governments are completely under-resourced to keep adequate track or be responsive when quality is not there,” said Kylie Brannelly, spokeswoman for the National Outside School Hours Services Alliance.
A spokesman for Camp Australia said: “We have learnt from these issues and taken action to address them. They are not an accurate reflection of our services today.
“Over the past 24 months Camp Australia has invested millions to improve the quality and consistency of services.”
He also said parents should be aware that a rating of “working towards” did not indicate the service was in any way unsafe.
A spokesman for the federal Education Department said state and territory governments are responsible for the regulation of these services.
United Workers Union’s Helen Gibbons said, “any service provider that has so many of their services failing to meet quality guidelines is shocking. A key indicator of a quality service is a stable staff team. Children and parents need a reliable friendly face that they know and trust.”
Opposition childcare spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth said the government’s cuts to the childcare quality system were having repercussions on centre quality and safety.