The latest child care related news, views and reviews May 1, 2013
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Child care survey results – Part 4
National Quality Framework

Child care survey results 2013There's a lot of scepticism and a marked lack of understanding of the new National Quality Framework. Why?

In our survey, almost half of parents said they didn't really know about the NQF, but when prompted, only 20% were able to agree with the main factors. This was particularly high in NT, ACT and QLD.

Is this apathy? Lack of information? Exhaustion or a mixture of all three?

A fifth of ACT respondents thought that the NQF would lead to a better standard in child care, compared to 14% of those in NSW.

Under 20% (average of 15%) said that they agreed with the new ratios of staff to children and slightly more (just over 20%) agreed with the need for more qualified staff, meaning that 80% of parents don't actually agree with the main criteria of the NQF.

Almost a fifth (18%) of those in NSW, VIC and TAS are worried about the cost implications of the NQF to their child care fees – only 12% of WA parents were worried (proving the wealth of WA perhaps).

Survey boilerplate
The survey was taken by 2,494 parents (98% mums) Australia wide, 80% of whom have children currently in care, 87% for work reasons. Just under 80% of respondents live in the suburbs, 14% in the inner cities and 7% in rural Australia.

Considering the National Quality Framework has been created to benefit child care workers, owners, parents and kids, why is there such a negative vibe around it?

At the end of the day regulations have existed in child care for a very long time. The NQF is not something for parents to be sceptical of. But it seems that's exactly what's happening.

The focus on the cost implications of the updated regulations clearly has many parents worried that increased costs to child care providers will be passed down as increased fees to parents. This is not necessarily the case.

Yes, there is no doubt that the NQF will cost child care providers, both in the additional staff required to meet the new ratios (1 carer per four children in the under twos category) and also in the requirement to hire more qualified staff.

There will of course be headaches for child care services who are having to change their ratios and therefore make the decision to either increase their operating costs (and some may not be able to do this without significant negative effects on their business's viability) or to cut the number of places available in order to maintain the costs at their current levels, which means fewer places in their locality and decreased income for the providers. Some may be worried they will not weather this storm.

However there has been a $300million budget allocated by the Federal government to take some of the pressure off the child care providers and minimise the onward cost to parents.

Ultimately the NQF has not been designed to create problems for parents and child care providers. Quite the opposite. It is there to standardise services provided; to attempt to bring into line those child care providers who aren't currently up to scratch in terms of quality and to provide children with the best care possible.

It is not going to be plain sailing. As far as child care providers are concerned, there will initially be additional costs and paperwork. But hopefully this will be evened out by the fact that better paid child care workers with better career prospects and workplace conditions are happier workers. Turnover should be reduced therefore cutting recruitment, training and development costs not to mention increased productivity.

In the past, parents have been concerned about the extremely high levels of staff turnover in child care centres (clearly this doesn't apply to family day care which is, by its nature, very stable in terms of staff).

Giving child care workers better levels of pay, encouragement to train and reward for qualifications can only lead to better standards of child care and benefit all concerned, not least the children.

As far as child care places are concerned we need to look not just at the existing child care services, but at helping new ones to fill the shortage of places; to look at even distribution of child care providers across urban and suburban areas; helping child care providers with planning applications to build new or increase the capacity of existing centres or facilities; promoting family day care, in home care, company crèches and other excellent forms of child care and by incentivising parents to hire nannies and au pairs by allowing child care benefit and rebate apply to all valid forms of child care, not just the currently "approved" forms.

There is a lot of space out there for excellent child care in all forms and the National Quality Framework may well help us to create a much better outlook for child care, working parents and their children in Australia.

View Part 1 – How long, how much and is it worth it?

View Part 2 – Quality & employer support for working parents

View Part 3 – Returning to work

View Part 4 – National Quality Framework

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