LOCAL childcare workers and training providers had a first-hand opportunity to discuss their concerns with Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood Learning Sussan Ley yesterday.
Fifteen childcare providers and training organisation representatives attended a roundtable forum at the Cairns TAFE, hosted by Ms Ley and Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch.
“There were a number of valid issues raised, which were largely in line with common themes that are coming up as I meet with childcare providers around the country,” Ms Ley explained.
A key concern was the rising cost of childcare, a result of providers facing increases in wages and regulatory requirements, along with an upcoming reduction in carer to child ratios.
“Childcare providers have been put in a very difficult situation because they don’t want to make childcare inaccessible to families as a result of raising fees, but must address burgeoning costs,” she said.
“It was also made clear to me that the amount of paperwork and administration required by staff is impacting on the care of children. I’m hearing reports of staff having to take work home at evenings and weekends, adding to their already intensive workload.”
Ms Ley said she was extremely impressed with the breadth of experience in the room, and the feedback and positive ideas generated by the group.
“But whilst we have many highly qualified and experienced people in the Far North, it was brought to my attention that there are providers offering Certificate III qualifications in six weeks, with just 20 hours practical experience in a childcare centre,” she said.
“I do share the concerns raised by the sector, as there is no question that we need people who have real experience working with our children.”
Warren checks out the Sheridan Meadows Day Care Centre with centre director Vicki Tier, her son Mason (aged 7 months) and Shadow Childcare Minister Sussan Ley.
Mr Entsch said the roundtable was extremely successful, and gave him the opportunity to hear first-hand about the challenges facing the sector in the Far North.
“It’s clear that we have some highly dedicated professionals working in the industry who are committed to addressing these issues,” he said.
“I fully support the Coalition’s decision for a Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare as it’s critical that local families can access affordable childcare when they need it.
“I would like to thank Sussan for making the effort to visit the Far North and meet with local operators on this very important issue.”