Changing the Face and Future of Childcare
The topic of childcare has become a bit of a political football of late. It is used as a selling point to working parents – offer them cheap childcare so they can get back to work sooner!
For me, childcare is far, far more than a convenience for parents who need to get back to work, or for a country that survives on the backbone of its industries.
Don’t just make it cheaper and more readily accessible.
Make it better. Make it the best in the world.
Childcare isn’t just babysitting and wiping bums
Because parents need to work and so many more children are being looked after by others, these services need to be simply excellent.
They need to give children every care and opportunity that their parents would if these children were home, but also need to go far beyond this in excellence. Our childcare and education services should provide far better care and opportunity than even the best parent can give.
For the peace of mind of parents, the benefits of our future leaders we should provide childcare that takes all of the relevant information we know about raising healthy children and use this.
And we aren’t doing anything close to this at this point in time.
The numbers of early childhood services all over Australia are fluctuating, providing even fewer options for working families and growing children.
Following changes to childcare subsidies in the last few years, a large number of new services opened presuming that there would be an influx of need. This led to an oversupply in some areas and undersupply in others, with around a third as many services closing as opening.
Many services were unable to meet child quotas, while others had waiting lists that ran for years. At some childcare services parents had to sign their baby up for services before they had even conceived.
Those who couldn’t meet quotas fix the issue by raising costs for their current families.
The unbalanced system which is also inconsistently run and governed continues to experience problems, with another four early childhood facilities in Macnamara rumoured to be closing.
The focus of Childcare should be the Children
Childcare services are not for the parents, they are for the children. They should be tailored to creating a future community of strong and healthy thinkers and leaders.
They should be regarded as where the mental, social and physical development of Australia’s people begins, and as important a step in building our future as providing good antenatal intensive care units and exceptional primary schools.
Here is a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of the things I want to improve about early childhood services in Australia:
- Raise the nutrition and dietary standards within the services to be in line with the daily nutritional intake recommendations of the Department of Health.
- Raise the wages of childcare workers as well as their respect levels within the community. These are not babysitters, they are health and education professionals responsible for Australia’s fastest evolving minds and bodies.
- Lower the ratio numbers of children to each worker, to reflect a system of more an appointed case worker per child, allowing a far deeper approach to each child’s care and development, as well as their barriers and challenges.
A combined achievement of Health and Education
At present, early childhood services fall within the governance of the Department of Education. Education is an essential aspect of childcare services no doubt, but I believe that in giving sole governance to that department we are neglecting the other vital aspects of childcare.
I want to implement a new Child and Youth Portfolio within government which, among other things, will be responsible for the delivery and governance of early childhood services. The Departments of Health and Education will both have an input, which will create a holistic service delivery for the child.
The funding should be high, and the governance should be strict – this is how excellent programs are created.
We take all of the best information we have available right now and we feed this to our children, making them the healthiest children with the brightest possible opportunities and most sustainable environment possible – no less than they deserve.
Good childcare is not a necessary service to get parents back to work – it is a necessary service to give Australian children the best start we can.