NSW Education Department inspectors have started staking out the homes of family daycare operators suspected of pocketing payments for “phantom’’ children.
Early Childhood Education Minister Sarah Mitchell will grant inspectors new powers to enter the homes of family daycare operators without warning from October 1.
Ms Mitchell urged parents to dob in dodgy operators who are offering to pay for children’s Centrelink Customer Reference Numbers (CRN) to use in the childcare con.
“As a mum, I am appalled anyone would exploit children, families and the sector, all to make a quick buck,’’ she told The Saturday Telegraph. “We will use the full extent of the law to crack down on any rogue operators and we are not afraid to throw the book at them.”
Dodgy operators are licensed family daycare workers who do not care for any children, but use the CRNs to claim taxpayer subsidies through the federal government.
Mothers with young kids are being approached in Western Sydney shopping centres and even outside Centrelink offices. Some parents are in on the scam, collecting rebates worth hundreds of dollars a week for kids who are not even going to daycare.
NSW childcare inspectors have been hamstrung because they are not allowed to enter family daycare homes unless they know for certain it is “operating’’ that day. A legal loophole means the state inspectors do not know when services are supposed to be operating, so fraudsters can refuse entry by claiming they are having a day off work.
As a result, inspectors have started lurking outside homes for a week at a time to watch if any children turn up for care.
An Education Department spokeswoman said that from October 1 the national childcare law would be changed to give inspectors power of entry whenever they “reasonably believe’’ a service is operating.
The NSW government is working closely with the federal government, which shut down 52 fraudulent daycare rings in NSW last financial year after data-matching children’s CRNs.
But Australian Childcare Alliance NSW president Lyn Connolly said family daycare rorters are still “ripping money away from children”.
Originally published as Spies to crack down on fake daycare...Read more