ALRC Report 70 deals specifically with the Child Care Act 1972 (Cth) and the operation of child care outside this legislation through the Children’s Services Program, such as occasional care and family day care.
The report’s main findings centre on the need for new legislation not only to encompass the variety of child care operations but also to fulfil Australia’s obligations under international law such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC) and to keep pace with social change.
The report accounted for, and recommended, priority for children with special needs including financial hardship, Indigenous children, children from non-English speaking backgrounds, sole-parent families, families in remote and rural areas, children with a disability (or whose parents are disabled) and children at risk of neglect and abuse.
- New legislation based on the principles of access, equity, affordability and quality should govern federally funded children’s services.
- The welfare of the child for whom child care is provided should be paramount.
- Government policy about children should be developed and monitored through a national agency.
- Planning processes should be transparent, and based on principles set out in the legislation.
- National standards that can be monitored according to benchmarks such as physical environment and quality assurance mechanisms should be established to ensure quality child care services are maintained.
- To ensure that parents have appropriate mechanisms to resolve complaints, it should be a condition of funding that there be appropriate complaints procedures. There should also be an independent, external body to deal with complaints.
- The ALRC found an urgent need to clarify the rights and responsibilities of the family day carers, who provided child care for other people’s children in the carer’s own home. There should be written agreements or policies addressing the roles and responsibilities of carers, the parents and the central coordination unit that organises the network of carers.
- Providers of child care services may hold sensitive personal information about family relationships, child illnesses and other matters. The Commonwealth also holds personal information about families and sensitive commercial information about child care providers. This confidential information should be protected.
As yet, there has been no formal government response to ALRC Report 70. The Child Care Act 1972 (Cth) remains in force with minimal changes.
There has been some minor implementation of ALRC recommendations.
The ALRC report supported funding of community-based child care facilities, particularly as these kinds of facilities were often the only ones available in rural and remote areas. The Child Care Legislation Amendment Act 1996 (Cth) removed the payment of operational subsidies to community-based long day care centres. At the same time the government announced funding initiatives to ensure families in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas have access to flexible child care.
The Child Care Payments Act 1997 (Cth) was intended, among other things, to introduce new confidentiality requirements to protect personal and other child care information, consistent with recommendations in ALRC 70. After a change in government policy, commencement of that Act was deferred. The same confidentiality requirements were introduced through the Child Care Legislation Amendment Act 1998, and are now in sections 12J to 12V of the Child Care Act 1972.
The Child Care Legislation Amendment Act 1998 also introduced sanctions to be applied to service providers for breaching conditions of approval, and provision to allow appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) of a decision to apply sanctions. The type of sanctions introduced, and the right to appeal to the AAT, are consistent with the ALRC’s recommendations.
The Economic Planning Advisory Commission (EPAC) report, Future Child Care Provision in Australia, released in November 1996, was consistent with a number of the ALRC report’s recommendations, although emphasis was on economics and quality for money rather than on a social welfare perspective.