Senseless sessions

Gabe Connell
Vice President ECS

Last month preschools across NSW were completing their census. This census is used to determine funding for the following year. It’s a new system! It is complicated and time consuming. There is a lot more information to input. The new system requires us to create sessions – these sessions reflect the groupings we have and whether they are classed as an educational program or a care program.

At my service I have six groups enrolled across the week but I have to create 15 sessions in order to input the information the department requires.

The funding for next year is based on the demographic of our enrolment for this year and our SEIFA band. However this demographic may not reflect next year’s enrolment and we could find ourselves subsidising families through fees rather than government subsidies.

We are also being penalised for enrolling three year old children. I can understand that we don’t receive funding for three year olds (I don’t agree with it but I can understand it) but to still be penalising us?

My service will lose $16,000 next year because I have enrolled seven children who are not four before the 31 July. This means that the fees will have to increase by this amount and the real victims of this penalty are the families.

The department would see us have vacancies rather than enrol three year olds. They are trying to force us to enrol four year olds in the year before school for 15 hours a week so they can draw down the Universal Access money rather than use state money like all the other states. With fees so high families cannot afford to pay for the 15 hours.

In a meeting with State Early Childhood Minister Leslie Williams last year she said they would be looking at this penalty. So far nothing has happened.

NSW continues to have the highest fees and the lowest participation rate, yet the government has underspent the early childhood budget by millions.

Things are not a lot better for families accessing long day care services. The average amount spent on childcare each week has more than doubled in little more than a decade, rising much faster than household incomes. Costs have skyrocketed despite federal government spending on childcare growing at least as quickly (actually at an even faster rate, according to the government’s Productivity Commission).

Why is this? Firstly more children are spending more time in care. Second, as operators see that childcare can be a commercial enterprise, we are seeing more privates while councils and not for profits are decreasing. Third, there is a drive to improve quality – and this is a good thing. The debate at the moment is how to deliver the rebates and subsidies and to whom.

In the meantime, as professionals we will continue to navigate the minefields and issues and deliver high quality education and care to the children and families of NSW – and in many cases for very little pay!