WODEN COMMUNITY SERVICE (WCS) RESPONSE TO REGULATION IMPACT STATEMENT FOR PROPOSED OPTIONS FOR CHANGES TO THE NATIONAL QUALITY FRAMEWORK.

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1 WODEN COMMUNITY SERVICE (WCS) RESPONSE TO REGULATION IMPACT STATEMENT FOR PROPOSED OPTIONS FOR CHANGES TO THE NATIONAL QUALITY FRAMEWORK. WCS supports the National Quality Standard and National Quality Framework, and the improved outcomes for children and increased professional opportunities for educators which they bring. WCS however is pleased that some modifications have been suggested. Our detailed response follows.

2 3.1 Refining the NQS and Assessment and Rating process Reducing the complexity of the National Quality Standard. Option 1.1B. Reducing the complexity by streamlining the standards and elements in the draft is supported. This will add clarity Streamlining the process for quality assessments. Option 1.2B Improved assessor training is supported, and templates made available to assessors to streamline their work at assessment. We have found there have been many inconsistencies within the assessment and rating process. The training of assessors needs to be reviewed so that reports and ratings judgements are consistent whomever makes the report. In stage 2, assessors need to follow the discussion with staff to clarify any queries they may have and to allow staff to bring up contributing evidence to the process. This does not presently occur. Neither does the clarification of inconsistencies or minor adjustments. Also when ratings are challenged with the necessary evidence, the process of ratings review should be made available to the service. This additional transparency will give the assessment system greater value and authority Reduction in documentation of child assessments or evaluation in OSHC services. Option 1.3B A change of focus in OSHC to demonstrate the child s involvement in the program, and how the program meets the children s needs and interests is supported, and less documentary evidence for each child is recommended. Assessors with either work experience in OSHC or training in how the service works is also recommended, as an understanding of the different context of OSHC is necessary to make a fair and reasonable assessment Significant Improvement Required rating. Option 1.4B Removal of this rating is supported Exceeding the National Quality Standard rating. Option 1.5A No change to the current system is supported Excellent rating Option 1.6A No change to the current system is supported.

3 3.1.7 Ensuring ratings accurately reflect service quality. Option 1.7B The present system does not fairly represent the overall quality of service, as the rating reflects the failure to meet only one of the elements. Removing the rating and using the seven quality areas to reflect the level of service quality would be preferred Length of time between assessments Option 1.8A The length of time between assessments should reflect the level of quality the service delivers, so an earned autonomy system is supported. More frequent assessments of lower quality services is supported. Spot checks from the regulatory service should occur to all services, whether rated or not. This is no longer occurring because of the burden of the assessment cycle on the regulatory body. Additional resources need to be allocated to the current system as there is a long time delay between assessments, and some services have yet to have an initial assessment. 3 years between assessments is the maximum recommended time, as much can change in that time with staff turnover, change of management, etc. Should a longer assessment cycle be chosen, then annual visits should be made as well as the previously mentioned spot check visits Removing supervisor certificate requirements Option 2.1B Removal of supervisor certificates is supported. The current process is lengthy and complicated, plus incurs a direct monetary fee, and duplicates what WCS does as an employer in children s services. Removing this process will reduce costs to our organisation as well as to the regulatory body through time saved processing the certificates Expanding the scope of the NQF. Option 3.1D Including all BBF, occasional care, playschools and mobile services in the NQF is supported. If we have a national system, then it seems logical and appropriate that all services for children in Australia are covered by the same regulatory and legislative standards. This would be better for children, as the outcomes of providing a service would then be able to be monitored. There will be additional compliance costs however, and introduction of the NQF would have to be staged, in particular relation to employment of qualified staff. However in services where the children do not attend on a consistent or regular basis, such as occasional care, or the premises is shared with another group or is

4 the only space available, such as a mobile service, then a similar flexible approach to child assessments and evaluations, including programming and planning as is being suggested in OSHC, should be followed in these expanded service types. The focus should be on how the service responds to the child s needs and meets and develops the child s interests by what is offered Application of assessment and rating processes to additional services Option 3.2B Given the increased compliance costs and difficulties in attracting and maintaining qualified staff, a phased in process of applying the assessment and rating process to previously out of scope services is supported. During this phase-in period, the regulatory body would need to make spot checks and announced visits to support and assist the service to meet the expected standards. This would be an additional cost on the regulatory body. Training for the educators would also need to be made available to services, at suitable times and a reasonable cost. This would be an additional cost to service providers Extending some liability to educators Option 4.1B It is fair that if FDC educators hold responsibility and financial liability for children in their care when an accident occurs, then it should also apply to educators in other parts of the children s services sector. It would also reinforce with educators the importance of taking responsibility and care, and ensuring children s safety whilst the children are attending a service. 3.5 Changes to prescribed fees Introduce fee for extension of temporary waiver Option 5.1A Services apply for temporary waivers as they are unable to comply with regulations. In the ACT there is still a staff shortage, particularly of trained and experienced staff. This is not going to be solved in the short term. Imposing additional costs on services for fees for waiver extensions may raise additional revenue for the regulatory body, but it is not going to assist service providers in being able to meet the regulations. It will also add to the cost of fees for families, as all additional costs to the service provider get passed on to customers Increase to provider approval fee Option 5.2A No change to the provider approval fee is supported. Whilst it is acknowledged that the regulatory body has incurred huge costs with staffing and implementing the assessment and rating process in particular, service providers such as WCS which is not-for-profit, do not have any capacity to absorb more costs, either in fees or in staff time. The cost of childcare is a current discussion topic in the community, and for

5 service providers to increase costs to pay the real cost of implementing the NQF and NQS is not feasible & Increase in service approval fee & annual fee for approved services Option 5.3A & 5.4A Please see comments above in National educator to child ratio for OSHC services Option 6.1B In the ACT we have an educator to child ratio in OSHC of 1:11. WCS supports this ratio, but accepts that other jurisdictions have not adjusted their business models to this. However if Australia has a national system of regulation and legislation for children s services then there should be a base ratio in OSHC of 1:15. This should be phased in over a 4 year period to allow providers to adjust their finances over time Approval of FDC services across jurisdictions Option 7.1B In order for the regulatory bodies to monitor services in their own jurisdiction, it is necessary to introduce approvals for FDC schemes over more than one jurisdiction. WCS supports this in order for children s interests and welfare to be paramount Limiting the number of FDC educators in a service Option 7.2A In the ACT it is difficult to attract and maintain FDC educators, as the working conditions in the Commonwealth and ACT Public Services draw away employees constantly from the non-government sector. WCS therefore supports no change to limiting the number of educators in a service Mandating a ratio of FDC co-ordinators to educators Option 7.3A No change to the current system is supported. As the Commonwealth is removing any subsidy to support operations of a co-ordination unit in FDC, to also impose a co-ordinator to educator ratio would make an already extremely marginal business model to become unsustainable. FDC customers should not have to bear the additional cost through fee increases of this proposed ratio Mandating a minimum Certificate 3 for FDC educators Option 7.4A Whilst it is accepted that training and education in child development is necessary for those working with children, to expect all those entering the profession to hold the qualification is unrealistic. WCS uses the incentive of supporting educators with their

6 training whilst still working and earning an income, as a means of attracting employees into FDC. To place this requirement on FDC schemes would severely limit our ability to attract and maintain educators in FDC FDC educator assistants activities Option 7.5B WCS does not have an experience of FDC educator assistants being left in charge on a regular basis. Should this circumstance occur, then a penalty is an appropriate means of both dealing with this unacceptable circumstance, and also acting as a deterrent to those considering such actions Powers of entry to FDC residences Option 7.7B WCS supports regulatory bodies being empowered to enter premises which they reasonably believe to be operating as a FDC home Proposals of particular interest to the sector. Proposal Child protection training for Nominated Supervisors and persons in charge day to day. This is supported, and that the training should be annual. Proposal Educator leave WCS supports the amending of Regulation 135, which allows for a diploma or primary teaching qualified person to replace an early childhood teacher due to illness or leave, to also cover when an early childhood teacher resigns, and for the absence period to be cumulative up to 12 weeks. Proposal Educator breaks WCS supports prescribed ratios are observed at all times across the service. Proposal Further information for assessment of capability for approvals WCS supports the regulatory body be allowed to seek further information when assessing an applicant s capability to operate an education and care service. Proposal Reassessment of capability to operate a service WCS supports Section 21 of the National Law to include the regulatory body have the authority to reassess an approved provider s capacity to operate an education and care service.

7 Proposal Extension of liability definition of person with management and control WCS supports changes to the National Law and Regulations to allow the approved provider to appoint the person with management and control, and that suitable guidelines are produced to support the requirements of the role. Proposal Powers to restrict a person from being the nominated supervisor or person in day to day charge. WCS supports the change to the National Law to include and offence and penalty regime. Proposal Publication of information WCS supports regulatory bodies to have a broad power to publicise enforcement actions, constrained only by a requirement that it furthers the objective of the National Law.

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