December 15, 2008 | Graham

Government to make ABC debacle worse

How could you make the ABC Learning debacle worse? Well, increasing their costs at a time they are trying to sell their centres would be one way, and not something that a government who has just thrown $50 million plus at them would think of doing. Would it?
Well, apparently that’s just what is about to happen. According to The Australian Maxine McKew, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education, wants the staff-to-babies ratio in childcare centres lowered to 1:3.
Unless the government is going to top-up childcare centres with the difference, it won’t just be ABC centres that are in trouble.
At the moment the staff-to-baby ratio for the under-twos is 1:5 in all states apart from Queensland and WA, where it is 1:4. So this move alone will increase staffing costs by between 25% and and 40%. That’s a hefty rise, given that the most significant cost in a centre is wages.
But it’s worse. Care for babies is unprofitable at the moment (and that is irrespective of whether you are a for-profit or a not-for-profit), because the staff-to-child ratio is so high. Not all centres run care for babies, and those that do, treat them as a loss leader, feeding a reliable stream of toddlers and pre-schoolers through to the profitable stages.
That’s why the shortages of child care places tend to be amongst the younger groups.
But there’s more. McKew also wants one of the carers in the babies unit to be university-trained, so you can guarantee that they will want a higher rate of pay again. And for what? Next thing some one will be demanding that all potential parents have a degree in childcare from a recognised institution.
All of my three older children are graduates of a babies unit at a childcare centre where the ratio was 1:4. I can’t distinguish any difference between them and children who aren’t. The non-university-trained carers who looked after them were excellent, and seemed to cope without too many difficulties. Unlike a mother at home, there sole job was caring for the children.
So, unless the government is prepared to stump-up, the upshot of this is likely to be fewer childcare centres, with those that are left offering fewer babies places, no discernable change in the children being cared for, and more women deciding that it is just too expensive to rejoin the workforce, just at a time when the country needs all the most productive hands on-deck.
Might have been better if John Howard had managed to win Bennelong!

Posted by Graham at 9:29 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. “Next thing some one will be demanding that all potential parents have a degree in childcare from a recognised institution.”
    Damn you’ve got good sources! Who keeps leaking to you?

    Comment by David Jackmanson — December 30, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

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