THE federal government’s education department will rewrite its childcare service handbook, after the Ballarat City Council slashed its overnight family day care program based on a misunderstanding.
Sebastopol parents Clinton and Ebony Ainsley were devastated when, earlier this month, the council told them they were no longer eligible for overnight respite care under the Family Day Care program, due to Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) guidelines.
But late yesterday, the council phoned the Ainsleys to let them know their overnight care arrangements had been temporarily put back in place, until the guidelines were clarified. It came after a DEEWR spokesperson told The Courier the council had made a mistake.
“The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has informed Ballarat City Council that family day care educators are able to provide overnight care,” a DEEWR spokesperson said.
The department also confirmed it had written to Ballarat City Council to explain that “overnight” care did not have the same requirements as 24-hour care.
“... the explanation regarding overnight care will be clarified in the forthcoming edition of the Department’s Child Care Service Handbook, which the council had relied on in making their decision,” the spokesperson said.
The Ainsleys had contacted The Courier earlier this month after they were told to “enjoy your last day next week” by a council employee.
Their four children, including a 12-year-old with Down syndrome and a six-year-old with a learning disability, had been attending overnight care one night a fortnight, giving the Ainsleys their only break and time to themselves.
Mr Ainsley said the family had been shocked by the situation.
“One moment we were told ‘no, it’s definitely cancelled’, now it’s still in place but it’s still under review. t’s good to have the care put back into place,” he said.
The council’s people and communities acting general manager Neville Ivey said the current guidelines for Family Day Care stated overnight care and eligibility for the Child Care Benefit was limited to “on call” or shift workers.
“On three occasions, City of Ballarat staff sought clarification on this point through the DEEWR contact line and the department’s interpretation was consistent with its guidelines,” he said.
But the education department contacted the council last week to clarify that the advice might have been incorrect, he said.
“Council’s family day care unit has now reinstated all overnight care to families affected by the department’s shift in policy interpretation.”