David Seymour confirms terms of early childhood regulation review

ACT leader David Seymour has announced the terms of reference for the Ministry for Regulation’s early childhood education inquiry, its first regulation review.

It will report back with recommendations to be taken to Cabinet within six months on regulations that could be removed or changed.

The review will look at what “market failures or other problems” are being addressed or not, what evidence there is of regulations working or not, the costs and benefits, unintended consequences and how effectively the regulations are being managed.

It will consider primary and secondary legislation, other rules, and the role and approach of compliance and enforcement agencies, but will not assess curriculum content, individual complaints or other sectors.

Funding levels would also not be included, but Seymour – the Minister for Regulation – said this would be reviewed separately.

Large-scale regulation systems covering several sectors are also considered out of scope except where they relate to childhood education-specific components.

Seymour said concerns about affordability and availability of ECE and the complexity of its regulation had led to “urgent calls from the sector” for the review.

“Instead of regulatory compliance activity we can actually bring a lot of energy into the sector, we can reduce costs for parents, and we can ensure that child safety, child happiness and child education are at the centre of everything that they do,” he said.

“Telling a school that they can’t actually teach phonics, that they can’t teach young children the ABC, I mean the average New Zealander would just throw up their hands at that … there’s no shortage of silly rules and regulations we can get rid of, that will do nothing to impact child safety and child welfare.

“I think it’s fair to say that this sort of stuff is legion and it’s seriously impeding people in the sector’s ability to get the business done of providing safe and constructive education in childcare for parents at a price they can afford.”

He expected the changes would mean lower costs for parents.

“If you get a more competitive environment where for example it’s easier to set up a new centre because we no longer have the network management regulations that means more choices, it means more investment, and that generally leads to lower prices.”

The Ministry of Education has also been running a regulatory review, but Seymour suggested it had not been effective.

“The ministry’s had a reference group which is basically a place where people can bring their concerns to the table, I just observe that it hasn’t led to the kind of regulatory relief that people would like.”

He said teachers, centre owners, caregivers, parents, government agencies, child advocacy groups, unions, research bodies, and others connected to the sector would all be involved in the review.

The ministry, set up in March, also intends to begin a second sector review before next year. It is one of four central agencies alongside Treasury, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Public Service Commission.

ACT campaigned on scrapping the Productivity Commission and setting up the Ministry for Regulation in its place to review regulations.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis on Tuesday described it as a “seek and destroy” mission for burdensome red tape holding back sectors of the economy.

Seymour said the ministry was “small but mighty” and about six people would be tasked with the review.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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