Wednesday 8 November 2023

Daycare socialism

Maybe it wasn't a good idea to try running a central planning model for daycare?

Susan Edmunds points to some of the really rather serious consequences, and their cause.

Centres in Cromwell, to which she and her partner moved to be able to buy their own house, are full. She was told they would not have space until the end of 2024 or 2025. She was also on waitlists for home-based care.

...The Early Childhood Council said it was a problem in several parts of the country.

Its survey showed 50% of centres were 91% to 100% full, 15.56% of all centres had a wait list of more than a year and 15% had a waitlist of seven to 12 months.

Chief executive Simon Laube said network management rules introduced in February had made it much harder to open new centres.

“Originally the problem was too many centres springing up in the same place – you might get three centres on opposing corners which is not good for anyone because all three don't do well. That is a problem, but in that problem, the providers lose because they don't hit the occupancy level and the business fails. The solution of stopping centres opening gets rid of that problem but parents and families are losing out.”

He said the council would write to the new government to ask it to remove that regulation.

“I don’t know what you could do to tweak it, there was a real problem that led to it, but it’s not the right solution.”

Too many daycares is a problem that sorts itself out, if you let it. Regulations blocking new daycares is not a problem that sorts itself out. And then you get a pile of people who cannot return to work after having a baby. That has serious consequences too. Longer spells out of work will make it harder to return to the workforce for a lot of professions. Skills deteriorate. Experience isn't gained. 

And remember that barriers to exit (from childcare) are barriers to entry into that circumstance. Some people will delay or reduce the number of children they'd be having because government has screwed this up. 

He said research showed the average amount of time it took to establish a new service was 2.6 years, including planning and consents. Regulation meant that operators might sink a lot of time and money into a business only to find they were not allowed to open, he said. He said 200 centres had closed in the last year.

Oh and there's also this. The government also screwed up the labour market for early-childhood centres. 

He said centres were also facing disruption from the pay parity opt-in scheme, designed to address disparity in pay between teachers working in kindergarten and those in education and care centres.

Is there any part of childcare that government hasn't screwed up? All the regulations might sound well-meaning. And maybe they give some sense of meaning to the otherwise futile lives of the bureaucrats who write the rules. But the rules cause harm. 

And there's this on top of it:

Under the Building Act a single missed or unrecorded inspection in the past 12 months, for example, would prevent the issue of the warrant. 

A building would instead be issued new forms to show there had been non-compliance, and there would be no way to obtain a warrant of fitness until the next year. 

Auckland Council had previously issued a “report in lieu” to building owners if this were the case and a warrant of fitness could still be obtained.  

But last month the council stopped using the lieu reports and began using the new forms, meaning the workaround was no longer available.  

Early childhood council chief executive Simon Laube said a centre’s licence was conditional on operating out of a building that complied with the Building Act, which for a large number of Auckland centres meant having a building warrant of fitness.

He said there was concern the Ministry of Education would be heavy-handed with following the letter of the law, if centres did not technically have one. 

“The Ministry of Education are taking licenses off providers for a lot less than this, anything in the kind of grey areas they're moving in really heavy-handed, so something that's black and white like this … we just know what the Ministry of Education is like and they don't go lightly.”  

The outgoing Labour government has handed a lot of awful hospital passes to the incoming National-led government. An utter mess in ECE is one of them.  

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