The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: My question without notice is to the Minister for Community Services. Is it a fact that approximately 120,000 children in New South Wales attend 850 community-based out-of-school hours services? If so, can the Minister advise why it is that these out-of-school hours services in New South Wales are not regulated by the Government? Given that the Department of Community Services regulates and licenses child care centres and other children's services in New South Wales, can the Minister inform the House what steps, if any, the Government will take to regulate out-of-school hours services and to monitor the quality of services and standards of care to ensure that school-aged children are well cared for?
The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: Many parents rely on out-of-school hours care and it is a service that is extremely important in terms of their other responsibilities. The Government is committed to having good-quality standards for the operation of outside school hours care services. However, the honourable member has misunderstood the fact that the regulation of this sector is actually the responsibility of the Federal Government. Nonetheless, out-of-school hours care services in New South Wales currently operate according to voluntary national standards. In 1993 New South Wales was the first State or Territory in Australia to introduce a voluntary code of practice for outside school hours care services. I am advised that the code was developed by the out-of-school hours sector in partnership with government to set a range of standards that provided service operators with good practice guidelines for the operation of services.
The code was a forerunner of the development of the national standards that were agreed to by community service Ministers in 1995. States and Territories have implemented these national standards to varying degrees. In 1999 the State Government spent $1.3 million on upgrading service equipment to the standards. There are a number of legislative protections that include coverage for children attending out-of-school hours care services, such as occupational health and safety and the Food Act where food is provided. Screening checks are required on those who work with children attending the services. As I have said, the Commonwealth Government is responsible for the provision and funding of the services. I understand that the Federal Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, the Hon. Larry Anthony, member of Parliament, has announced the development of a quality assurance system for outside school hours care services.