Reforms crippling childcare 

THE childcare sector is ``in crisis'' with parents facing rising fees and workers fleeing the sector, according to childcare advocates.

The United Voice childcare union and the Australian Childcare Alliance are concerned that national reforms introduced in January are putting more pressure on workers and young families, unless the federal government provides more funding.

Under the reforms, childcare centres will have to:

--Decrease the ratio of babies to carers four-to-one.

--By 2016, hire one carer for every five children aged 25 to 35 months and one carer for every 11 children aged three to school age.

--By 2014, ensure all childcare workers have a certificate III qualification and every centre has one university-qualified early childhood teacher.

United Voice Tasmania lead childcare co-ordinator Jannette Armstrong said childcare was already in crisis, with 180 people leaving the sector nationwide each week - and workers could not be expected to meet the conditions without an increase in pay.

``The major issue is the inability of the sector to attract and retain the right people - particularly qualified people - to work in childcare,'' she said. 

``It's all predominately because of wages. For someone with the minimum qualification in childcare it's $18 an hour, while others are paid closer to $22 an hour.

``Why would they stick around when they could go and work in a call centre or a multitude of other jobs, where they can get paid more for less responsibility?''

Ms Armstrong said the union wanted the federal government to provide more funding to increase pay to an ``appropriate professional rate'' for workers.

However, Australian Childcare Alliance secretary Frank Cusmano said the union's talk of staff decline was exaggerated and the real concern for the association was childcare fees.

``The alliance isn't for or against increasing pay but if it is increased, we don't want any federal government funding for pay to come from existing early childhood funding and childcare rebates for families - basically, we want it to be new money,'' Mr Cusmano said.

According to a survey released by United Voice in June, Tasmania had the biggest jump in childcare fees in the year to April 2012, increasing by 16 per cent to $73.62 daily.

Mr Cusmano said the alliance, which represents 70 per cent of Australia's long day care sector, was concerned that childcare centres would have to pass on more costs to parents as new regulations, checks and balances were implemented.

``We absolutely support the reforms . . . but the costs to childcare have increased since the introduction of national regulations in January and prior to that cost of living and increasing wages had already increased fees - and unfortunately, the childcare rebate and childcare subsidies for families have not increased to reflect that,'' he said.

``So what the Child Care Alliance is asking for is a 30 per cent increase for the childcare rebate for children under three and 15 per cent for children over three to five to reflect changes to cost of living and the costs of reforms.

``I don't think that's enough to catch up to where it's fallen behind, but it would relieve some of the pressure for families.''

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