The Victorian government has decided to go to war against the Turnbull government over the family day care rort. Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos is reported to have called on the Turnbull Government to cease funding new Family Day care services in areas already saturated with services, and undertake a review of the sector.
African women providing Family Day care services in the community
The arrest last week of two men in Sydney on charges relating to fraudulent claims of family day care payments has sparked the hostilities between Melbourne and Canberra. The Victorian Government says it has tightened the processes for approval of education and care services, and stepped up its investigation and enforcement action of regulatory breaches in this sector.
The Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) has prohibited 10 persons, deregistered 32 providers and prosecuted one family day carer and one provider. In December 2015, the Department closely worked on an Australian Federal Police-led taskforce that resulted in 12 Victorians being arrested and charged.
Mikakos is now calling on the Turnbull Government to sharpen its focus on the sector, address outright fraud and consider a range of sensible limits and actions to improve the system’s integrity and ensure the work done by honest and skilled Family Day Care services is not tarnished by the cheaters. The minister says that under the status quo, it is currently possible for:
• Family day care providers to be paid for more than the permitted seven children in their own home
• Family day care providers to claim long hours for school-aged children including teenagers for overnight and/or weekends
• The number of family day care educators claiming Commonwealth subsidies to exceed the number approved by the regulator.
The Turnbull government is yet to respond to the latest development in the Family Day care industry. Both the federal government and state governments are well aware of the rorting of the system and there is increased pressure to take action, but the nature of the industry is such that it is extremely difficult to catch cheaters given that the care is provided in people’s homes, including after hours and weekends when most government services are closed, apart from the police.
Cleaning up the industry is a good thing, says Fatuma Saleh, a family day care worker in Tarneit, Melbourne West. Fatuma also worries that “it can be expected that budgetary pressure, as well as increased public concern, is likely to lead to tighter regulation of this industry, which is likely to impact on many families being unable to find flexible carers for their children, as well as Family Day care workers losing job opportunities”. Within the broader African-Australian community, many women have continued to benefit from the increased demand for services in the industry, an industry that is quite suitable to the cultural needs of many African families. Should the industry face more stringent regulations, which seems to be inevitable, many of African women will lose income and not be able to find alternative employment.
The Victorian government urges Anyone who believes a service is fraudulent should contact the Commonwealth Tip-off Line on 1800 664 231 and those who have any concern about the safety, health and wellbeing of children in family day care should contact the Victorian Regulatory Authority at firstname.lastname@example.org