The Guardian 25 April, 2007

Victorian Local Government calls
for improved childcare standards

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) is calling upon the state government to improve quality and safety standards in the child care sector.

The state government oversees the licensing and regulation of centre-based children’s services, including long-day care, crčche, occasional care and stand-alone kindergartens.

The state government is currently undertaking a Review of Children’s Services Regulations. The VLGA in partnership with the Victorian Community Child Care Association and the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union (LHMU), (the childcare sector staff union) is calling upon the state government to introduce better standards for the industry as part of this review process.

Rae Perry, the CEO of the VLGA spoke at a State Parliament House forum last week to lobby the state government caucus on this critical issue.

In addressing a large crowd of Labor politicians she said, "We call upon the state government to improve minimum standards in the industry that ensure quality and safety considerations are met, especially in the area of ratios of staff to children.

"The new staff to child ratios should meet Early Childhood Australia recommendations — that is 1:3 for under-twos, 1:5 for two to threes and 1:8 for three to five-year-olds. These are the ratios needed to ensure quality and safety.

"In addition to this we call on the government to ensure that the regulations require greater qualifications and better working conditions for staff.

"Children are community assets and we all need to be fighting for better ways to protect children in the community sector.

"In improving regulations governing the sector, there may be a cost shift to child care providers, but when it comes to the issue of cost, we shouldn’t be asking ourselves can we afford it, we should be asking ourselves how can we as a community not afford to have better care for our kids."

The Childcare Union is also flabbergasted by the lack of understanding of the crisis that John Howard’s Family and Community Services Minister, Mal Brough, has shown.

"What’s the point in telling a parent there’s a place for a three-year-old in Orange when they have a one-year old in Sydney", LHMU Childcare Union National Secretary, Jeff Lawrence, asked.

"Child care planning is much more complicated than nationwide numbers and parents know that.

"This is a political stunt pursued because the government is again going to deny responsibility for child care provision in this year’s Budget", Jeff Lawrence warned.

"LHMU Childcare Union is calling on the federal government to take more responsibility for supplying child-care places in areas of need, where market conditions discourage for-profit operators from investing, and where not-for-profit centres also find it difficult to set up.

"We’ve seen fees increase at twice the rate of inflation while there is a crisis of availability of places where they’re most needed. We need a government approach to childcare which is more than just about letting the market rip", Jeff Lawrence said.

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