ABC AM with Elizabeth Jackson - Child Care Compliance Taskforce

  • Assistant Minister for Education

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Federal Government says it's uncovered rorting and rip offs in the childcare sector, especially family day care. Gouging parents by charging excessive fees was one of the main problems identified.

Ninety per cent of the offenders were family day care providers and the Government says it might prosecute some of the businesses.

Political correspondent Louise Yaxley spoke to the Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley

SUSSAN LEY: Well Family Day Care has been able to rort the system in inexcusable ways. That's why we commenced this task force and our departmental hotline with a view to sending a very clear message to the sector that this is not acceptable, will not be tolerated, fines will be issued, and further action will be taken if required.

LOUISE YAXLEY: So do you think people are setting up deliberately to rip off the taxpayer?

SUSSAN LEY: Look, anecdotally, we do hear that there are scams and that existing services have an edge to them if you like that is very dodgy unacceptable practice. We do have this happening in the sector; we don't like it. It gives the rest of the sector a very bad name because Family Day Care is high quality in this country. It's a valid and valuable method of early education and care, and in some instances, it's being dragged into ill repute by operators who are blatantly doing the wrong thing. That's the reason why this task force was established and I'm delighted to say that it is yielding early results.

LOUISE YAXLEY: So you're taking action against them including fines and suspensions in some cases. But what about prosecution? If they're that dodgy, as you called them, why not take it further?

SUSSAN LEY: There is every possibility that some of the services that have been fined to date will progress to prosecution.

As we know, to put together a brief of evidence and to carry it through is a long process, but we don't shy away from that process at all. Yes, it's costly, and yes it's time consuming, and yes it's intensive when it comes to resources, but I'm prepared to put those resources forward through my department and make sure that we send a very clear message to the sector that these practices have got to stop and they cannot get away with it if you do it.

LOUISE YAXLEY: If Family Day Care makes up 90 per cent of the offenders, should families by shying away from that and looking to alternate forms of care to protect themselves?

SUSSAN LEY: Well just remember that the vast majority of providers in Family Day Care are high quality and doing exactly the right thing. What we've seen is an exponential growth in the number of Family Day Care services registering, starting operation, and then doing the wrong thing.

So that, if you like, signals the problem in the first place: this rapid number of services that were being licensed in various states. So looking at the operations, it was clear that something wasn't right.

So my message to families is simply check your childcare statement; make sure that you, as a family, are paying for the hours of care that you're receiving.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's the Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley speaking there to political correspondent Louise Yaxley.

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