Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Almost half of all eligible long day care services have already applied to share in the Abbott Government’s $200 million investment in professional development.

Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley said in less than two weeks, over 2850 services had applied for the Government’s Long Day Care Professional Development Programme (LDCPDP) – the largest investment of its kind.

She said it was a fantastic response from the sector and demonstrated the inequities of Labor’s Early Years Quality Fund, which the Government’s LDCPDP replaced.

“Labor’s fund was a cruel hoax on child care educators,” Ms Ley said.

“It was ‘first-in, first-served’; services needed a unionised enterprise bargaining agreement to be eligible; and they only received two days’ notice to lodge an extensive application for funding that expired after just two years.

“Then you’ve got the fact that funding ran out in 13 hours, but Labor kept mum and allowed services to continue applying and signing agreements with the union for three months.

“The result – the number of unionised enterprise bargaining agreements in the long day sector quadrupled, yet two-in-three services could never have received a dollar.

“When you look back on it, you wonder how Labor thought they were going to get away with such a blatant and brazen union membership drive on the public purse.

“The Abbott Government’s decision to intervene will see the remaining funds shared fairly and equitably with all long day care services. No union card required.”

The LDCPDP will use remaining funds from Labor’s controversial EYQF, which was shut down after being found by an independent report to be a vehicle for union recruitment. The EYQF is currently under examination by the Auditor General.

Ms Ley said about 6000 long day care services were eligible for the LDCPDP, with applications closing 5pm (AEST) Friday 13 June 2014.

Ms Ley said the Abbott Government’s decision to share funding equitably amongst services meant there was no need to use Labor’s controversial ‘first-in, first-served’ model, making the application process fairer and simpler. Services do not require an enterprise bargaining agreement to access the LDCPDP, she said.

“This flood of applications also reflects the sector’s support for these funds being used to deliver long-term benefits for the quality of education and care for our kids.”

Ms Ley said services would be able to claim up to $10,450 per full-time equivalent educator, with a base of $3750 per FTE and additional loadings for early childhood teachers ($2300), and regional ($4100) and very remote educators ($4400).

Ms Ley said the independent PricewaterhouseCoopers found a number of issues with the EYQF application process, including:

• “The $300 million allocated to the EYQF over two years is not adequate to fund a significant increase in wages for all qualified staff in the ECEC sector. (piii)

• “Estimates suggest that only 30 per cent of the LDC workforce would benefit under the EYQF.” (p18)

• “There is evidence that the requirement to have an enterprise agreement was used by United Voice to increase its membership.” (px)

• “Centres declined to put in an application for EYQF grants as a way of getting rid of the United Voice harassment.”  - Australian Community Services Employers

• “The Department reports that prior to the announcement of the EYQF, there were approximately 100 enterprise agreements in the sector, but by the end of October 2013, this number had increased to over 400 enterprise agreements in the sector.” (pv)

• The funding cap of $300 million was reached within 13 hours of the application process opening (pvii)

• “The Department has indicated that as a general rule for competitive grants processes, three to four weeks from release of Program Guidelines to application is standard. The Program Guidelines for the EYQF were published on the Department’s website on Friday 19 July 2013 at 11am providing services with only 2 working days to prepare an application. (p12-13)

• “[First in-first served] was to the detriment of small providers who would need to spend time making the decision whether to apply.” – peak body representative (p25)

• “The proposed funding was only sufficient to provide increased wages for two years.” (p18)

Providers are able to apply online at the Mychild website.

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