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Early childhood sector braces itself for crippling costs

Media statement

Early childhood sector braces itself for crippling compliance costs

27 October 2016

For immediate release.

Exorbitant inspection quotes for those that serve food in early childhood services are coming through to early childhood education association, Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ).

‘We spoke out publicly and via the submission process against the new compliance costs and measures in early 2015 when the Ministry for Primary Industries undertook ‘consultation,’ said Kathy Wolfe, Chief Executive of ECNZ. ‘$300 was the amount services were led to believe they could expect to pay. We’ve recently heard anecdotally about an ECE service in Nelson that was quoted $4,000 for an inspection, which quite frankly is outrageous. Other quotes we’ve heard were around the $1,000 mark.’

There is a BIG question around costs with services needing to be independently verified at least every three years. As Territorial Authorities are likely to administer the annual checking of centres and set the costs, large differences are expected to be quoted across the country.

To the organisation’s knowledge, no significant issues exist regarding food safety in ECE services. They already comply with the Education Act and Licensing Criteria for Early Childhood Education and Care Centres 2008 – within which are requirements relating to food preparation and eating spaces. This is another example of blanket government legislation in response to an issue in the wider food industry. The organisation does not believe the same commercial kitchen rules should be applied to ECE services where compliance is already high.

Ms Wolfe said that of course food safety was critical, however the compliance costs were unnecessary for a sector that was already regulated.

‘The tragedy in all this is that at the end of the day, unrealistic and unnecessary compliance costs and additional work required may become too hard to meet for ECE services. This means that services will either need to raise fees which will impact on a family’s ability to have their child attend ECE, or worse still, may stop serving food altogether and revert to lunch boxes. Members advise us that for our most vulnerable children the meal they get at the ECE service is often the best meal of the day. The result will likely be hungry children.’

Right now, extra costs are the last thing that ECE services need, year upon year of underfunding means that these costs come at a time when many in the sector are already struggling to make ends meet.

‘We want to see the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary Industries work together to address and rectify this position now before the flow on effects negatively impact children,’ said Ms Wolfe. ‘We would like to see a change in policy which makes ECE services exempt from the new regulations.’

ENDS

About Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ) - formerly known as Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association (NZCA).

ECNZ represents around 600 early childhood education (ECE) services, providing education and care to thousands of infants, toddlers and young children. Established in 1963, ECNZ has a long history of improving standards of practice in New Zealand’s early childhood education sector.


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