Minister Birmingham, please deliver a fair Child Care Package

The Federal Government has proposed changes to the funding of childcare. Samatha Page, CEO of Early Childhood Australia (ECA), responds to comments made by the Education Minister Birmingham and says that if the Package and Activity Test remains as proposed many thousands of families will opt out of the system and the children who stand to benefit the most will miss out.

The much awaited Federal Government’s childcare package must support both the participation of children in early learning and working families to access stable and afforable childcare services.

Australian families need confidence that the Childcare Package the government delivers is fair and allows them to have stable, afforable access to quality services.

To be fair and ensure all children will benefit from access to early learning the package must:

  • Subsidise families to access two days per week of childcare
  • Only apply a work/study activity test beyond two days per week

The current system provides 24 hours per week of subsidised childcare and under the proposed Childcare Package it will only provide half these hours (24 hours per fortnight).

Currently 12 hours would typically cover just one day worth of long day care and this is just not enough to cover children’s needs.

Minister Birmingham’s assertion that 12 hours a week is the equivalent of two 6 hour school days and that childcare and pre-school service providers should adjust our business model does not take into consideration key differences between the school system and early learning.

Unlike schools, early learning providers must pay commercial rent and other costs, and they must have staff on for 12 hours a day.  These services don’t get the same level of funding as the school system, and the new subsidy will only cover families for 85% at most, with higher earning families receiving 30% or less subsidy.

The practical reality is that if the Package and Activity Test remains as proposed many thousands of families will opt out of the system and the children who stand to benefit the most will miss out.

We urge the government to preserve two days per week of subsidy for all children regardless of their parent’s stability in work. Then apply an activity test above that – for three or more days.

We know that children will benefit from two days a week and ultimately everyone benefits from children accessing good early learning. This also gives parents stability to engage in job seeking, study or volunteering.

We are concerned that the currently proposed activity test and safety net programs are overly complicated which will potentially lead to a lot of confusion. There are many families with at least one parent in highly variable work – casual, irregular, seasonal – and those children could miss out.

rp_Karana011-300x169.jpgChildren’s access to early childhood education led by qualified educators amplifies their achievement at school. Research shows that children who attended early childhood education and care score 18 to 20 points higher in reading, spelling and numeracy and 13 points higher in writing compared to children who do not attend early childhood education and care.

Investment in early learning will also increase our future prosperity as a nation. Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers last year shows that increasing participation in quality early learning by vulnerable children would add more than $13 billion to GDP by 2050.

It is encouraging that the Federal Government and Education Minister Simon Birmingham see the value in investing in early childhood support; we just urge the government to get the balance right to ensure everyone benefits from our children being able to access quality early learning.

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Sam Page

Samantha Page is the CEO of Early Childhood Australia (ECA), the national peak advocacy organisation for children under eight, their families and professionals in the field of early childhood development and education. ECA was established in 1938 and works with Government, early childhood professionals, parents, other carers of young children, and various lobby groups to advocate to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children from birth to eight years. ECA is a not-for-profit membership based organisation. It also has a successful retail and publishing arm, producing a number of very well regarded subscription based publications including the Australian Journal of Early Childhood. Samantha holds a Master’s Degree in (Community) Management from the University of Technology, Sydney and she is a Graduate of the Company Directors course offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Her passion is for social equality and she has worked in the non-government sector for 20 years across roles encompassing service delivery, executive management, consulting, social policy analysis and advocacy. She has extensive experience in the development and implementation of social policy and sector development projects.

One thought on “Minister Birmingham, please deliver a fair Child Care Package”

    suzan broadbent says:

    Even though centres are open for 12 hours the vast majority of children access them at most for 8.. Some for 6. Giving a child 1 day per week us more detrimental than good

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