Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Issues faced by Child Care Operators in the Application for Operating License

Welcome Note from YB Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun
23 February 2010

Issues faced by Child Care Operators in the Application for Operating License

1. A very good morning to all of you. Xin Nien Kwai Le to those celebrating Chinese New Year.

2. First and foremost, I sincerely thank all of you for taking time off your busy schedule to participate in this morning’s roundtable discussion on issues faced by child care operators in the application for operating license. Also we apologise for any inconvenience caused in the re-scheduling of this roundtable meeting.

3. Child Care Centres or more well known as “taska” is important on 2 grounds. Firstly, it plays an important role in nurturing young children especially in their early developmental years. Secondly, the taska facilitates participation of women in the labour workforce. Statistic in 2005 showed that 58.1% of women in the labour workforce are married[1]. Given the traditional gender role stereotypes, working mothers carry the additional burden of assuming the nurturing role.

4. As more women enter into the labour market, there is a corresponding higher demand for child care centres. In cases where both parents work, there is a need for more taska in meeting the increasing demand for support in child care. This is an issue which relates to empowering women to make informed decisions about their lives and has been championed by many women’s organisations. Guided by the intention to create a conducive environment for women to work, the Government has made numerous initiatives to encourage the setting up of more taska as child care support for families with both working parents.

5. Hence, the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MWFCD) made amendments to the Child Care Act 1984 in 2007. Amongst others:

a. Expanded the existing range of categories of child care centres to include workplace-based and community-based child care centres in addition to the previous two categories of home-based and institution-based child care centres.

b. Extended duration of license from 12 months to 60 months.

6. All these efforts are intended to ease the setting up of more taska for child care operators. At the same time, the government has decided to set up 10 community-based taska every year and now there are a total of 36 Taska Community throughout the country, e.g. Taska Komuniti Kompleks Penyayang Bakti in Sungai Buloh.

7. However, even though efforts have been made to improve provisions in the Child Care Act which falls under the jurisdiction of Jabatan Kebajikan Malaysia of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, however the setting up of a taska involves 3 other technical agencies as well- namely local authorities, Bomba and Jabatan Kesihatan.

8. It is important to note that concerted efforts by the Government, private and business entities or even social organisations in contributing to child development may be halted if interested child care operators face daunting challenges in setting up child care centres, especially in relation to getting approval from local authorities. For example,

a. The differing sets of provision, rules and regulations amongst local authorities pose a great challenge to prospective child care operators when requirements for approval are not streamlined;

b. Variation in levy and license fees imposed on child care operators by select local authorities.

c. A range of requirements by local authorities from the need to apply for business license from local authority, need to change residential status to institution, need to fulfil the condition of parking lots, residential houses prohibited from running child care, prohibition of setting up taska in shops and businesses complexes.

d. Exorbitant fees to build child care centres in residential areas.

9. Aside from various challenges arising from obtaining approval from local authorities, additional requirement of getting approval from the Department of Land and Surveys and requirement by the Bomba for second set of stairways in double storey houses delay the license application process further.

10. Therefore, in view of the range of issues faced by child care operators, we have called for this roundtable meeting with all key stakeholders. We need to sit down as a small group to further understand, discuss and resolve critical issues faced by child care operators in their application for operating license when dealing with different agencies by not compromising on the quality of service and most importantly the safety of all the children. For example,

a. Even with the 2007 amendment of the Child Care Act 1984, there is a pertinent need to find a practical solution to address non-uniformity in the requirements for approval by local authorities. Given that local authorities have their own jurisdiction and own set of provisions and regulations, it is rather difficult for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in attempting to streamline the diverse sets of standards for approval.

b. On levy and licensing fees, the rates should be kept low and streamlined across all local authorities as the taska industry should be viewed as a social service industry which benefits society and not merely as a profiteering commercial industry.

c. We need to identify a plausible solution whereby land could to be reserved for the setting up of taska at a fraction of the commercial price.

11. As a start, Wanita MCA will mobilise its division leaders and members to advocate for uniformity of requirements for approvals by local authorities and attempt to bring changes through dialogues with relevant stakeholders and submission of memorandums collating input on challenges faced by child care centre operators in their application for operating license. In addition, building on input from this roundtable discussion and feedback from the ground in various divisions, Wanita MCA will draft a Memorandum detailing key challenges faced and recommendations to ease license application process of child care operators, and we will present to relevant Ministries and agencies, state governments and local authorities.

12. We are privileged to have the honour of your presence this morning. We truly believe your invaluable input would benefit all of us and most importantly participation supports our effort to ease the process of setting up child care centres and to facilitate a friendly child care support for working families.

Thank you.

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