Dec 26, 2010
Unprecedented numbers of small babies are in the care of unqualified home-based carers, as the Children’s Commissioner investigates early childhood services. The Commissioner, John Angus, is to report in February on which types of childcare are providing the safest and most nurturing environments. He is likely to recommend an increase to the 14 weeks’ paid parental leave to which mothers are entitled. His inquiry coincides with a court charge against home-based carer Rachel Simons, of home-care service Porse, who admitted to the Herald on Sunday last week that she left a 4-month-old boy alone in Te Atatu all morning while she took her own child to the doctor. According to Education Ministry figures, 8704 babies under 12 months old were enrolled in licensed services, a 30 per cent increase on five years ago. Numbers of 1- to 4-year-olds in care have also gone up due to a baby boom from 2007 onwards, but not at the same rapid rates. Home-based care has seen the biggest growth – up 74 per cent since 2006 – and this option is especially popular among parents of babies. …Childcare-centre and home-care operators were predictably split on which was safest. Kidicorp owner Wayne Wright, who has about 100 centres nationwide including Topkidz and Mainly Kids, said childcare centres had more staff, and they were highly qualified, so were safer and better than home-based care. But Jenny Yule, the managing director of Porse which is the country’s biggest home-care service provider, argued they had an average ratio of only two children per carer, providing one-on-one attention. Yule said Simons, who left a 4-month-old baby alone in Auckland this month, was a lone case in the organisation’s 16-year history. They had 5000 Porse kids being lovingly cared for, she said.