On 17 February 2020, the Victorian Department of Education and Training (“the Department”) released the draft Children’s Services Regulations 2020 (Vic) (“the draft Regulations”) for public consultation. The draft Regulations seek to replace the sunsetting Children’s Services Regulations 2009 (Vic) (“the 2009 Regulations”) and contain key changes in order to align state regulation with the National Quality Framework (“NQF”).
Early childhood education and care services in Victoria are regulated under two regimes. Most are regulated under the NQF, while the remainder operate under the Children’s Services Act 1996 (Vic) (“the Act”) and the 2009 Regulations.
The NQF is a national approach to the regulation and assessment for early childhood education and care across Australia. The framework introduced a new quality standard in order to improve these services, and to maintain consistency in the services provided. The NQF is contained within the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (Vic) (“the National Law”) in Victoria.
The National Quality Standard (“NQS”) is the national benchmark for services by which NQF regulated services are assessed and rated. The NQS contains seven quality areas, each containing two to three standards. Each standard is a high level outcome statement with elements that describe an outcome, which then contribute to that standard being achieved. In Victoria, the Department is the regulatory authority that assesses and rates services against the NQS.
The NQF regulates any service that regularly provides or intends to regularly provide education and care to children under the age of 13. This includes services such as:
Occasional care services do not fall under the NQF and are regulated under Victorian state legislation. State regulated education and care services include:
In 2017, the first major review of the NQF was completed. The review considered the possibility of regulating all children’s education and care services under the NQF, but ultimately decided against doing so due to the foreseen complexity the transition would produce. Following this review, the Victorian government introduced the Children’s Services Amendment Act 2019 (Vic) (“the Amendment Act”) in order to better align the Act with the NQF.
The draft Regulations seek to provide operational detail to support the changes made under the Amendment Act. Additionally, they aim to further align Victorian legislation with the NQF by simplifying arrangements for service providers in order to ensure more consistent minimum standards across nationally and state regulated services. The draft Regulations will also be replacing the 2009 Regulations, which are due to expire in May 2020. However, it should be noted, that if continued with, the draft Regulations will not result in the NQS being used as the standard for state regulated education and care services.
One of the key changes proposed by the draft Regulations is in regards to licence types offered. Under the current 2009 Regulations there are seven licence types, however, the draft Regulations will prescribe only two types of services. The first is the Limited Hours service type, which covers services which care for each child for less than three hours a day, and up to six hours a week. The second is the Occasional Care service type, which will encompass all other services and has no limit to the hours a child is in a service’s care.
The draft Regulations also propose several changes in regards to the required qualification level of staff members, and consequently staff-to-child ratios. For example, under the 2009 Regulations, all staff members must hold at least a certificate III level education and care qualification (“certificate III qualification”). The draft Regulations, on the other hand, proposes a distinction between qualifications needed in a Limited Hours service and a Occasional Care service. Limited Hours services will require all educators to have an approved certificate III qualification. However, Occasional Care services will only need to meet the relevant ratio requirements. Educators who have or are actively working towards at least a certificate III qualification will count towards the staff-to-child ratio, and educators who have not yet commenced study towards a certificate III qualification can be counted towards this ratio, while they are within a three month probationary period prior to their enrolment. The draft Regulations makes other changes regarding diploma qualified staff and degree qualified childhood teachers. Additionally, the draft Regulations also propose a new requirement across all services. Staff records will have to be kept and maintained, detailing volunteers and students, as well as their level of participation in the service.
Various changes regarding the safety procedures of the services are also proposed, including emergency procedure and policy requirements. Under the draft Regulations, all services will be required to conduct a risk assessment in order to identify potential emergencies. Emergency and evacuation procedures are to be rehearsed every three months, and emergency and evacuation policies and procedures to be documented.
The draft Regulations also offers other additional changes, including:
Some of the guiding questions provided by the Department include:
“Do you support the reduction of seven (7) licence types to two (2) service approval types?
Do you support the requirement for outdoor space for new occasional care services?
Do you support the alignment of staffing requirements with the NQF?
If the preferred option is adopted, would your workforce or organisation need support to meet the proposed requirements?”
Consultation on the draft Regulations is currently open. Further details on submissions and the progress of the consultation can be found on the State Government of Victoria website.
TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.
[Draft] Children’s Services Regulations 2020 (VIC) and regulatory impact statement available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service
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