In whose interest? Minister Mitchell Privatises Out of School Hours Care

Network of Community Activities

The NSW Department of Education has announced that parent-managed Not For Profit OOSH Services will be put out to commercial tender and forced to compete with corporate providers if they are to continue to operate. The Hon. Sarah Mitchell has failed to negotiate a better outcome for some 30,000 children, 35,000 families and has compromised quality in doing so.

This is a reversal of decades of the Dept’s own policy recognising parent-managed services as the preferred model of OOSH care in NSW and comes only one month after the publication of a report showing that for-profit providers had a disproportionate large number of serious breaches and services that did not meet the National Quality Standards.

The Department has not consulted the sector or parents managing these services and before making the change. This negates the valuable contribution parent volunteers have made to this sector since the start. The first service was started by parents in 1973 . The underlying issue is putting dollars before children and the Department’s decision is based on getting higher licence fees paid by corporate providers.

The Department has made representations that the policy change has been forced upon them by legal advice, while refusing to release this advice.

Network of Community Activities, the peak body for OOSH care in NSW is concerned that a rushed and opaque process has meant that alternative options have not been properly investigated, and that objective flaws in the Department’s processes have been ignored.

Community owned benefits children

Network believes that there are clear public policy benefits to parental involvement in OOSH care that leads to quality outcomes for children. Community owned services are good for children and any suggestion of a risk of corruption in favouring parent-managed Not for Profit services is unbelievable!

CEO of Network of Community Activities, Pauline O’Kane, rejects the suggestion that putting parent-managed services out to commercial tender is merely a matter of levelling the playing field. “The reality is that parent-managed services use the fees they charge for one purpose and one purpose only – to reinvest into the care of their children and school community. These services don’t have the deep pockets of large corporate providers to invest in professional tender writers in order to maximise profits for their shareholders”.

Pauline O’Kane contends that Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell has a duty to parents in NSW to be honest about the motivation behind the Government’s endorsement of this policy change and make public the facts that she relied upon when endorsing the Dept’s advice. “If the Minister thinks she can bury bad news at the end of the year when parents will be too tired to fight, she doesn’t understand the passion parents have for their OOSH. Parents in this state want to be involved in their children’s care and they will see right through a change being forced on them that tries to take advantage of post-lockdown exhaustion”. In just over 12 hours Network has secured over 1000 signatures on our petition to reverse this policy change.

Family Premier

Premier Dominic Perrottet said in his first speech after being chosen by the Liberal Party to be its next Premier that he would be ‘A Family Premier, focusing on how we can make life better for working families’. Network calls on Premier Perrottet to recognise that parent-managed OOSH services are the best way of supporting working parents to maintain a close connection and involvement in their children’s care.

Ross Cunningham was a parent of Thornleigh West Public School who acted as President of a parent-run OOSH stated that “Running an OOSH under a parent committee brings with it huge benefits of community connectedness, cost minimisation and the ability to draw on committed, capable and qualified executive members who may not be available to either a P&C or quite frankly the private sector.”

Change in policy will lead to negative outcomes for children and schools

The NSW Governments change in policy will lead to negative outcomes for children and families, will drive fees up, lead to poor quality service provision, ignores the importance of parent involvement in OOSH care and obviously lead to more services run by corporate for-profit providers.

This is another example of this Government prioritising corporate interests over the rights of children and families.

Profits before children – how can this decision make life better for children and families Mr Perrottet?

Network of Community Activities

Network of Community Activities (Network) is the peak representative body for Out of School Hours Care providers in NSW. Network is a recognised leader in the field of school age care and is the largest membership organisation in Australia dedicated to the advocacy, promotion, resourcing and development of play, recreation and leisure activities for 5-14 year olds.

Established in 1974, Network is one of the oldest not-for-profit peak bodies in the Australian Children’s Services sector.

Network strives to resource and facilitate OOSH Services to enrich, inspire and support children to engage in a play rich environment which helps them to thrive.

Network is the proud representative of New South Wales on the National Outside School Hours Services Alliance (NOSHSA), which represents the collective interests of OOSH Services across all States and Territories.

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).