Red tape choking childcare industry

And it all adds to the costs that parents pay

New government reporting requirements for childcare centres are eroding the amount of attention that can be given to the children, workers in the industry say. And staff numbers are dwindling as workers leave jobs where every move is monitored, judged and reported.

Registered childcare centres now have to independently report on 708 indicators which Federal Government inspectors use when conducting compulsory inspections every two years, Childcare Queensland president (Glynn Bridge said. If a childcare centre fails to get a tick for any of the 708 boxes under the Government's Quality Improvement and Accreditation system, it could lose accreditation. "The red tape is killing us," Ms Bridge said. Fear of losing accreditation has prompted some centres to introduce monthly checklists, which include directors reporting on more than 40 workplace practices, ranging from nappy-changing and hand-washing to childcare philosophy.

The industry fears more regulations are looming under a Rudd Government proposal to introduce a grading system for childcare centres. Centre owners say they are not opposed to inspections or health and safety requirements for their businesses, but fear losing experienced staff as a result of "unreasonable processes".

Kerrie Lada, the director of Hardy's Road childcare centre at Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast, is among those trying to juggle childcare and government paperwork. She said that would prefer to "get down on the ground" with children rather than sit in the office with piles of paperwork. "My job as director has changed over 20 years," Ms Lada said. "I'm basically doing paperwork rather than supporting staff and children and families. It's basically ticking boxes to say we have done it".

Another childcare centre director contacted by The Sunday Mail , who asked not to be named, said she had recently lost a senior employee and others had complained of stress because they feared letting down colleagues and the centre if they failed to get a "tick" on any of the criteria. "The stress levels are definitely high. What's confusing is the criteria changes every time. And you feel like you're being judged and watched," she said.

More than 900,000 children from about 700,000 families Australia-wide use childcare each year. About 10 per cent of centres in Australia failed to receive accreditation last year.

Ms Bridge said she had recently briefed Queensland Minister for Communities Lindy Nelson-Carr on industry issues and had requested a meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to discuss the complex regulation of centres.

The article above is by Paul Weston and appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on June 15, 2008.

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