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Childcare fraudsters nabbed after 1,600 ‘enrolments’

Childcare fraudsters nabbed after 1,600 ‘enrolments’

The apparent enrolment of over 1,600 children into a family day care centre in a single month has led federal police to charge the operators over an alleged fraud worth more than $5.7 million.

Government subsidies are available to childcare operators in a bid to reduce the cost of childcare for working families, given the strict operational and safety criteria imposed on carers and their facilities.

The addition of 1,600 new enrolments for the one-month period in 2017 tipped off the Department of Education and Training that a major scam may be underway to claim family day care payments. The department referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to investigate.

Claims for the care of these children — equivalent to 0.1 per cent of the total number of children in childcare Australia-wide this financial year, according to data from IBISWorld — amounted to over $5.7 million.

Following an intensive investigation, the AFP last week raided five properties in Sydney, and charged two Kellyville women with intentionally dealing in the proceeds of crime.

It is alleged the duo cashed in on fraudulent claims for the cost of caring for each child for as much as 14 hours a day, five days each week.

“We will allege in court that this group methodically went about enrolling more than 1600 children for the maximum amount of family day care available, and then claiming full benefits for each of these children,” said acting Commander Kate Ferry from the AFP’s fraud and anti-corruption division.

“Commonwealth fraud offences have a significant impact on the Australian public — every dollar represents funds that could have been put to use for the benefit of the whole community.

“The message today is that greed on this scale will not be tolerated by authorities. Investigations will occur and those responsible will be brought before a court.”

Police did not name the childcare centre at the heart of the alleged fraud.