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National News Australia

Is early childhood education and care affordable and accessible?

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Is early childhood education and care affordable and accessible?

IPART has released the Interim Report on its review of the early childhood education and care sector in NSW including draft findings about factors that drive affordability, accessibility, consumer choice and supply.

IPART Chair Carmel Donnelly encouraged community feedback on the draft recommendations to address barriers to affordability and access in the sector, currently used by more than 300,000 families in NSW.

“Improving access to early childhood education and care is critical for NSW families, “Ms Donnelly said.

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“High quality early childhood education and care is closely linked to better long-term educational outcomes for children and increased workforce participation for parents, especially for women.”

Our review found there is scope to improve affordability, accessibility and choice for families in NSW, in particular for children with disability, additional needs or experiencing disadvantage or vulnerability.

IPART has made draft recommendations to simplify the funding system, improve availability of qualified workers and better support families and children with diverse needs.

“The funding system for early childhood education and care services is complex, fragmented and potentially inefficient, and this can lead to unintended negative outcomes,” said Ms Donnelly.

Governments should work together to develop an integrated funding approach to early childhood education and care which prioritises affordability and accessibility for families with greater disadvantage including those with lower incomes and families in regional or remote locations.

The report includes draft recommendations to improve flexibility and inclusion through targeted supports for children and families experiencing disadvantage or vulnerability.

The review found workforce availability and expertise are critical to the supply and accessibility of quality early childhood education and care services, with workforce shortages a significant problem for the sector.

“We have made a draft recommendation that the NSW Government develop an early childhood education and care workforce strategy to increase availability of suitably qualified workers and support educators to deliver high quality services,” said Ms Donnelly.

“We also suggest the NSW Government develop a digital service and data strategy to help families access early childhood education and care services. Better digital tools and data could help families find, choose and use services, and help service providers make better decisions about locating, expanding and supporting services.”

Ms Donnelly welcomed feedback from the community, including families, as well as providers and workers in the sector, on the draft findings and recommendations.

“We are particularly keen to hear from families, people who work in early childhood education and care and service providers,” Ms Donnelly said.

“This consultation will help us refine our draft findings and recommendations to the NSW Government to enable better outcomes for families and children.”

“We welcome submissions and invite people to complete a short survey online. We will also hold an online public hearing on 30 October 2023.”

IPART will make final recommendations in December this year. For more information, to take our survey, make a submission or register for the online public hearing, visit our website at www.ipart.nsw.gov.au.

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Armidale

Two charged with drug supply in Armidale – Strike Force Malebo

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Two charged with drug supply in Armidale – Strike Force Malebo

***PLEASE NOTE: NSW Police Force vision of arrests and photos are available via Hightail https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/kgDYeZY99N***

© State of NSW (NSW Police Force). For editorial use only. No sublicensing of any NSW Police Force supplied image or footage allowed on a standalone basis without the express written consent of NSW Police Force. NSW Police Force attribution notice and logo to be retained on all copies of supplied images or footage with the moral rights to no false attribution and of integrity in all its images and footage asserted.

Two people will face court charged following an investigation into the supply of prohibited drugs in the state’s Northern Tablelands during a targeted police operation.

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In August 2023, officers attached to New England Police District established Strike Force Malebo to investigate the supply of prohibited drugs in the Armidale area.

Just after 6.30am yesterday (Wednesday 22 May 2024), strike force officers executed three search warrants simultaneously at homes in Armidale.

Officers located and seized, methamphetamine, ammunition, prohibited weapons, testosterone, and drug paraphernalia.

About 6.30am, officers attended a caravan park in Armidale, and arrested a 29-year-old man.

He was taken to Armidale Police Station and charged with supply prohibited drug – indictable quantity, owner/occupier knowingly allow use as drug premises, participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, and breach of bail. He was also charged with three unrelated traffic offences.

The man was refused bail and appeared at Armidale Local Court today (Thursday 23 May 2024).

About 9am, police attended another home in Armidale, and arrested a 42-year-old man.

He was taken to Armidale Police Station and charged with supply prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis.

The man was given conditional bail to appear at Armidale Local Court on Monday 17 June 2024.

Inquiries are continuing.

New England Police District Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Kingsley Chapman, said local police will continue to target prohibited drug supply.

“The harm caused by these prohibited substances to local communities cannot be understated,” he said.

“Police work with the community to proactively pursue anyone suspected of supplying prohibited drugs and disrupt the associated criminal activities which impact on the people of Armidale,” Insp Chapman said.

Anyone with information related to the supply of prohibited drugs within the New England Police District is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or local police.

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Local News

Councils lose half billion dollars a year

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Councils lose half billion dollars a year

 

The United Services Union (USU) has unveiled a startling revelation regarding the NSW Government’s handling of funds accrued through a flawed waste levy system, which has led to an annual loss exceeding half a billion dollars for local councils. Rather than channelling these funds back into assisting councils with their waste management services and infrastructure, as intended, the government’s actions have exacerbated financial strains on local authorities.

This revelation, to be presented before the NSW Standing Committee on State Development’s inquiry into local government financial sustainability, highlights a pressing issue compounded by the detrimental effects of rate capping—a policy that has severely constrained the financial flexibility of the majority of NSW councils. Both the flawed waste levy system and the constraints of rate capping persist as legacies of the previous coalition government.

General Secretary of the USU, Graeme Kelly, underscored the severity of the situation, emphasising that while local councils and communities contribute approximately $750 million annually through the waste levy, only a fraction, $250 million, is reinvested into local waste management initiatives. The staggering sum of $500 million is siphoned into the state’s consolidated revenue, neglecting the intended purpose of aiding councils in managing waste sustainably.

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The shortfall in waste levy revenue exacerbates existing challenges, particularly in regions like northern NSW, where inadequate landfill sites prompt councils to incur additional costs by transporting waste across state borders. This situation not only burdens ratepayers but also results in lost levy revenue for NSW.

Mr. Kelly decried this as a blatant instance of cost shifting by the NSW Government, which places undue strain on councils already grappling with financial constraints imposed by rate pegging, diminishing grants, and escalating service demands.

The USU contends that the mismanagement of the waste levy exacerbates financial pressures on councils, incentivizing some to seek alternatives such as dumping waste in neighbouring states. This practice not only undermines environmental objectives but also erodes the financial stability of local councils.

However, the waste levy issue is symptomatic of a larger financial crisis facing local government in NSW, as highlighted in a report by Professor Brian Dollery. The report underscores the deleterious impact of rate pegging, which over two decades has precipitated heightened debt levels, infrastructure deficiencies, and decreased municipal efficiency compared to states without rate caps.

Mr. Kelly emphasised the urgent need for reform, asserting that unless councils are empowered to set rates reflective of their actual costs, the risk of financial distress looms large, jeopardising employment and essential services for over 50,000 council employees statewide.

The USU calls upon the NSW Government to dismantle rate pegging as part of a comprehensive reform agenda aimed at securing the long-term financial viability of local government. While recognizing the complexity of the challenges ahead, Mr. Kelly stressed that abolishing rate pegging represents a crucial initial step towards establishing a sustainable funding model that acknowledges the indispensable role of local government in community welfare.

 

For more National Australia News, visit here.

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Local News

NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

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NSW Government to Modernise Planning with $5.6 Million AI Investment

 

The NSW Government has announced a $5.6 million initiative to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into local council planning systems to address the ongoing housing crisis and shortage of planners. This move aims to accelerate development assessment times and enhance the efficiency of the planning process.

The “AI in NSW Planning” project has identified key areas within the development application assessment process that contribute to delays and could benefit from AI technologies.

After thorough evaluation, three innovative technologies have been selected for trials through the AI Solutions Panel and Early Adopter Grant Program:

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  • Adaptovate Pty Ltd’s Development Assessment Intelligence System (DAISY)
  • Archistar Platform
  • Propcode CDC

Councils are encouraged to apply for funding to test these technologies, with collaborative joint grant applications eligible for up to $500,000 and single council applications up to $200,000. This funding initiative is designed to foster innovative solutions to streamline the development application process.

Approximately 85 percent of all new home development applications in NSW are assessed by council staff. The introduction of recommended AI tools aims to reduce the average time taken to assess development applications by swiftly identifying administrative and data input errors.

Applications for the Early Adopter Grant Program are open to all councils and will close on 22 May 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by June.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, emphasised the transformative potential of the program: “This grant program is set to modernise the NSW planning system, enhancing its efficiency by equipping our planners with the best tools available. Our objective is to ensure the planning system operates at full capacity, which is essential for the timely delivery of new homes.”

For further details or to apply for a grant, councils are invited to visit the NSW Planning website. This initiative marks a significant step towards bringing NSW planning systems into the 21st century, leveraging technology to meet the growing needs of the community.

 

For more National Australia News, visit here.

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