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Mistake penalties to drive childcare staff away.

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Wed 26th August 2009

Mistake penalties to drive childcare staff away

Mrs Sophie Mirabella MP Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare, Women and Youth

Severe new penalties being imposed by the Rudd Government could drive away childcare staff and make childcare more expensive, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Childcare Sophie Mirabella said today.

“The new regulations are draconian and show just how out of touch the Rudd Government is with the childcare industry. Imposing fines of up to $22,000 on individuals who may input a figure incorrectly on the computer is just ridiculous. The industry is already struggling to find and retain staff - this can only drive them away,” Mrs Mirabella said.

“What individual wants to take that risk? And for businesses the fine can be $44,000 for a simple clerical mistake. It’s important that the system is not open to fraud, but commonsense must prevail as well. Childcare providers are already having to deal with uncertainty as a result of the Rudd Government’s shake-up on staff ratios and qualifications - these harsh penalties could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Mrs Mirabella said that Minister Kate Ellis had to go back to the drawing board and:

Ensure that penalties are not levied on individual staff members

Specify more clearly the circumstances in which the penalties will apply - which must be in genuine cases of fraud only, not where simple mistakes are made.

“There are many ways the Government can deal with providers who are found to be guilty of fraud - including the withdrawal of government-provided Child Care Benefits. These fines are very heavy-handed and the last thing the industry needs at this time.”

“The government is forcing a lot of changes on the Childcare Industry and there is a great deal of uncertainty about how much this will impact on out-of-pocket costs for families.”

“Any increase in fees at this time when we have rising unemployment and economic uncertainty will be a burden on working families. It’s also very clearly another broken promise - as Labor promised at the last election to “slash” childcare costs.”

“I am not sure that Minister Kate Ellis fully appreciates the challenges that childcare providers and workers are facing. If she did, she’d be instructing her Department to make changes to the civil penalties regime and ensure that childcare staff are protected. ”