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An open letter from a working mum to Tony Abbott

open letter to prime minister tony abbottDear Prime Minister,

I’m a working mum. I go to work every day plagued by worry and guilt, but I don’t have a choice.

My son is cared for by two relatively inexperienced nannies four days a week because I can’t get him into childcare.

It took a long time to find those nannies, because they are part of a mostly transient workforce and many of them only dabble in the profession until they get into what they really want to do.

Subsequently, my son has already had six nannies out of about 30 I interviewed.

Our current nannies are lovely girls and I’m lucky we were able to find them, but this is just a temporary measure and our son needs a consistent, caring and safe childcare provider.

I knew prior to getting pregnant that Australia faced a childcare crisis so I took every precaution to ensure my baby had proper care when I went back to work, but to no avail.

When I was three months pregnant, I booked my baby into childcare. Now my baby is 10 months old and I’m told that it’s unlikely I’ll get him into childcare by the end of the year.

He’ll have been on the wait list for almost two years by then and I’m told that I may not get him into childcare next year either.

It is unbelievable that working mothers are made to suffer so much in a privileged nation such as ours.

I’m lucky enough to have never needed welfare and the only government benefit I’ve received is Paid Parental Leave. I’ve worked since I was 15. I’ve paid my taxes, yet I’m penalised.

I know the Productivity Commission has made recommendations to improve childcare in Australia, but there’s been very little focus on the 0-3 age group.

And the recommendations the Federal Government appears to be considering may provide some solution for childcare, but not quality childcare. There’s a difference.

I implore you Mr Abbott, please open up more quality childcare places, particularly for our 0-3 age group so that they have a safe and secure environment to grow up in while their parents are at work.

In the true spirit of this nation, please help the hardworking people of Australia so that we no longer have to suffer for wanting to provide our children with quality care and a good future.

Regards,

Alison Lipinski

Image credit: ivelinradkov/123RF Stock Photo

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10 comments so far -

  1. The unions ruined the entire industry!
    …they campaigned to have staff to child ratio increased ~ which lead to extraordinary high fees too make up for hiring extra staff. Which also means that due to high staff cost and low profits, there is little chance of getting a decent pay rise

    ….they campaigned to professionalised the industry as they said “our members don’t like being referred to as glorified baby sitters “. So they succeed in doing that which lead to a 10fold increase in paperwork (learning stories, daily reflection, room plans etc) and a 20fold increase in regulation. Learning stories are basically useless, parents rather see fun and happy pictures, not a page essay about them playing with the blocks. Most parents don’t read daily reflection and room plans don’t need to be documented. And due to all this massive amount of paperwork, the burn out rate is huge in the industry. (KISS) Keep it simple stupid!

    All this new regulations and decreased profit make it rare to see a new centre open up so that makes wait list years on end and everyone loses in the end ~ parents and staff.

    And now they are going to make it mandatory to get a diploma to work in the industry. You study for 2 years to get a job where you get less money then working in Coles. I’ll be leaving the industry when they say I need a diploma~ as if 8 years working in the industry is not experience enough

    Another industry ruined by unions

  2. Wow. Why does it have to be so hard for mother’s to go back to work? It’s ridiculous. I was very lucky when getting my first into daycare, completely fluked it. I live in Central Qld, so we don’t have the massive waiting lists of Metro areas, where you pretty much have to be psychic and put them on the list years before you even start trying and happen to know the date that they would be starting. I’d checked out a few places and put her name down and paid the deposits, but the waiting lists were turning out to be too long and I was getting stressed. I just happened to call our local council run daycare the week before I was due to return to work as a last resort, did a walkthrough on the friday and signed all paperwork and she started the following monday (I was starting back at work on the Wednesday). I’m glad I didn’t get into the other places. Everyone I know who has a child in another daycare has complaints, my place is absolutely perfect. I’m happy it worked out for me, but there are so many mothers out there who need to return to work in order to pay the bills but just can’t get spots in daycare, and if they do, it’s like 1 or 2 days a week. Something needs to be done to ensure mothers can return to work, and our children are receiving quality care and education from childcare workers who genuinely care about the kids and are happy in their work. Our children are what’s most precious to us.

    • As a mother& grandmother,I have had firsthand knowledge of the current childcare situation.
      My daughter had been lucky enough to find a fantastic carer for my grandson who is now 5 & at school,the same person now minds my new 6 month old grandson 2 days a week.The carer does Home Based care& is supervised by the local Council.I guess this is one option.
      I also work for a well known& long established Nanny Agency & have had several “long term” placements with families…ie from 6 weeks to kinder age….
      Having previously been a Registered Nurse with Pediatric experience,I feel I am qualified to give high quality & loving care in the child’s own home,away from the many childhood illnesses that seem to thrive in a Childcare centre.The child also has one on one attention at all times…
      Sometimes,to defray costs,some parents “Nanny Share” & this may well bring down the costs comparable to commercial child care…
      So there are other options available….don’t give up hope…

  3. I am an Auditor, in short I review a business to see if it is either viable, safe or environmentaly firendly. Additionally to that I have worked in the childcare industry and my girlfriend of many years is in experience one of the most senior people in the Australian childcare industry, having been appointed as a group leader by the health department who used to run it over 30 years ago, she has owned centres and been the director of several, both funded and non funded.

    I can assure you that the industry has suffered greatly over the last ten years, not at the hands of politicians doing nothing but at the hands of those they put in charge to run the industry, ACECQA is the primary flaw.

    The intrusty regulations are now so harsh in terms of records and paperwork requirements that the man hours required by staff to maintain these records require such vast amounts of off the floor time, that the cost to have the now increased number of qualified staff on the floor makes it “impossible” for any centre to run unfunded. Now there will be centre running unfunded but they can not possibly be doing all the paperwork, usually the rumor is to just cut and paste previous events.

    I need to show you why it is not possible so you can see any rhetoric is simply a coverup for real facts and real time and real costs.

    A staff member on 25 dollars an hour costs 40, by the time you add holidays and sick days you are paying for them not to be on the floor, paying a casual casula rates to fill those 5 weeks minimum, 7 weeks in remote areas, (and they all take the sick days) superannuation, insurance for workers comp, training, uniforms, staff amenties,the divided cost of the management over the staff.

    Now simple math with no one off the floor doing “planning” ratio for a babies room is 4 to 1, lets say it’s a 40 place centre and average small to medium centre, the babies room has 8 babies, you don’t go over multiples of ratio or you need another staff member, so 9 babies would require 3 staff, so even on the leanest model of exact staff to children, you have two staff, $800 income at $100 per day per child. the two staff total cost = $80 per hour, x 7.5 hours per day. or $600. now add cleaning prodcuts such ass Nappies and baby wipes and washing detergent and hand saninitisers and food to feed the babies, now add the cost of the kitchen to make the food, the electricity divided over 3-4 rooms, the water divided over 3 to 4 rooms. I can assure you that there is no need to include proprty rental or mortage costs, or toy replacement or dozens of other costs before you are long ago losing money, profit is simply nopt possible, now take these staff off the floor because they have planning, yes staff have massive volumes of paperwork parents are now aware of, planning is not merely the daily routine, it is observations writen on each child, daily reflections of those observations, inclsion of the observations in the next set of weekly planning, reflections on the outcomes of the new planning based on the reason for the planning from the initial play observations. even at 3 hours per week per staff member, this means most staff do unpaid work after hours just to keep up their paper work to keep their jobs. the idiot Psychologists run the industry now. these are true facts, you may not say “no” to a child that has been in for a long time, my new favorite and i kid you not, is that when a child trips and falls even on a pillow and is clearly not hurt, or gets upset because another child take a toy from them, you cannot say, “you’re ok” or it’s ok, it’s true, some moron from the industry decided that if the child is crying then clearly they are not ok.

    I can assure you that in a court of law, any judge who read the figures of ratio requirements staff wages etc would say that anyone who says it is a viable industry would be held in contempt for lying to the court, you cannot change the ratio to fit your version of a story, you cannot change the costs of childcare to fit your story, you cannot change the real costs of wages and other costs to fit your story, you cannot add more children without increasing all those costs without the same result. so any story put before a court that it is possible to run a childcare centre and make money without funding would not only be held as not reasonable to believe, but not possible at all.

    Adding to this you cannot use unqualified staff to be included in the ratio anymore, and add to that that staff must now be 1 diploma for every certificate 3, so a room can no longer have a room leader as the diploma with 3 certificate 3 staff in a large room, it must have 2 diplomas in 4 staff. this is why the average salary cost is so high now.

    It isn’t that there could be places available, but what morn would even agree to take government funding just to break even??? the idea of owing a business is to make more than a wage, and I’m sorry but no manager senior enough to buy a business is going to take less than 125k as an income, and that has to be clear profit after tax.

    Your childcare industry is done, it is finished, whilst do gooder, child psyhcs and teachers who have bachelors of teaching yet have never worked in childcare run ACECQA, it will only get worse, in 7 years I have never see a teacher be worth 2 cents in a childcare centre, they have no idea, they live in a world where they are trying to reason with a child who cannot even understand colours or the alphabet. they my as well have Vets or plumbers running it, if you haven’t worked in it from a cert 3 to a diploma and run at least a childcare centre, you sure as hell shouldn’t be running the industry.

    Sorry people but there are no places because no one can afford to pay the staff they have, much less put on extra staff that will require more children to make the staff worthwhile, and rooms have limitations by square meterage. so even if a babies room could take 10, they will only ever take 8, because they will lose money even at staff wages to childcare fees before any other costs. The only solution is get rid of ACECQA all together, or pay 150 minimum per day that would give a centre the change of making a profit and making it worth owing and running and making childcare places, unfortunately the government will never subsides that much money, so it will never happen, they won’t undo what they gave brought in already so you will never have more places than you have now, only less places as they all collapse into funded centres only. This is not opinion, this is simple irrefutable maths. it is the most over governed industry in Australia – Federal Childcare regulations – Early years learning framework ACECQA – National Quality framework – The Department of Education – In fact the combined guidelines and regulations comprise more paper than any state Carters copy of the criminal code.

    You’ll know when it is on track the day someone actually makes a plan, there has never been a plan to keep “the industry itself going”, only plans to cost centre owners more money and need more staff with more qualifications.

    • A really powerful comment, Archie. I run a family day care and we too are required to adhere to the requirements of ACEQA, the EYLF framework, national quality framework, childcare regulations as well as council requirements. It definitely is challenging as a small home-based business to follow all the paperwork requirements. I am happy to do observations, planning, learning stories etc. as I believe in doing so in the best interests of the children. But the standards that keep escalating with no underlying support for a person like me who is out on a limb on my own makes it doubly challenging. Plus with funding cuts to family day care schemes, it makes the whole situation even more volatile for a little person like me. I haven’t even mentioned all the other costs I have to bear, like food, utilities, toys, equipment, craft supplies, sanitisers, wipes, nappies, public liability insurance, home business insurance, business vehicle insurance, council fees and levies, working clearances and checks etc. which I bear for the children. On top of that I’m now back at school to do my diploma because I’m concerned that these new qualification requirements will soon be extended to family daycare educators as well. It is hard work setting up programmes and experiences for these little ones every day. You are spot on that sometimes the standards set on these early years can be a bit too much sometimes to try and squeeeeeze out every little ounce of apparent meaning from every experience, when all these babies and toddlers is simply play and just “BE”. I’m all for having some structure and planning some learning and teaching for the early years… but there is a line that crosses practicality and reality that stretches people like us to spend all our time writing and documenting about what we are teaching these children, instead of spending the time actually teaching and playing with them.

    • I commend you on your mathematics, not so much your spelling.
      I am an early childhood teacher and mother and have worked in both child care and the former Office for Children.
      I find it odd that the only aspect of child care you have focused on in $$$$ there is no mention of the importance of the learning that occurs, especially in the 0-3yr age, hence the need for smaller staff child ratios, not to mention the high needs they have as they need someone to assist with all their care needs.
      I personally know people who are employed ACECQA and are very much in tune with current research on what benefits young children in their growth and learning and all have worked in the industry themselves.
      I would like to know where you have seen it written that you can not say no to children or it’s OK, and the scare tactics that go on about how much paperwork there is I can not fathom, there is a lot of blowing out of proportion by managers and owners who misinterpret and put expectations on staff that are not needed, and this I have seen plenty of.
      Educators should be having time, in payed time, to plan and reflect on what they do with children so that they can ensure that they are doing what is developmentally appropriate and extending on their learning.
      Maybe the problem here is that we see the care and education of our children as a service that should be cheap; when in fact maybe it should be seen as something worth spending money on and equivalent to some of the services we pay more for but don’t blink an eye at.

  4. I put my son on the waiting list when i was 5wks pregnant. He started day care at 6months of age and thats only because i work there, they could shuffle children and they needed me back at work asap coz they couldnt cover me while i was on mat leave.

  5. Last week I got an email saying my son is just about to make it onto the list at a Childcare Centre I enrolled him into just after I gave birth – he is now at SCHOOL!

    • I know a lady who was extremely lucky to get her daughter into a good childcare centre about 7 years ago. As soon as she knew she was pregnant with her 2nd baby she put in an application. I think it helped that they had used the childcare centre before.
      When my Mum first took me to kindergarten my brother was just a baby. The staff asked if she had enrolled him yet. That was 57 years ago.

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