Australia: Child care model to change


Sussan Ley, Assistant Minister for Education. Photo: AAP/Alan Porritt.

We have no plans to means test child care rebate, says government.

The Productivity Commission released its anticipated draft report on child care and early childhood learning last week. Key recommendations of the report are for the childcare rebate to be means-tested, funds to be allocated for approved nannies and continual provision of payments for universal access to preschool of 15 hours per week for 40 weeks per year.

The draft report will now be debated in the next parliamentary sitting period, commencing August 26.

Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley released a statement welcoming the Commission’s draft report.

She said the Abbott Government is committed to making child care more affordable and accessible for families around the country.

“We want to see a system that works just as well for families in the major cities as it does in regional, rural and remote Australia.

“However, the current system is at breaking point after child care fees skyrocketed 53 per cent during Labor’s six years in office.

“Child care services are struggling with unnecessary and excessive red tape as a result of Labor’s bungled implementation of the National Quality
Framework, which is in turn pushing up fees.”

When contacted by Neos Kosmos Ms Ley said that “the Australian Government is committed to ensuring that families are able to access affordable and flexible child care.”

Ms Ley said that means testing was not on the Government’s agenda.

“The Government has no plans to means test the Child Care Rebate. I note that the Productivity Commission’s consultation draft proposes significant reform to the current complex structure of child care payments, including a proposed single means and activity-tested payment.

“I look forward to seeing how parents and providers respond to the draft proposals, through the Commission’s public consultation process. The Commission submits its final report by 31 October 2014, at which time the Government will consider its final findings and recommendations.”

Ms Ley said that the Abbott Government has taken active measures to ensure families are supported, by maintaining income thresholds for Child Care Benefit eligibility for three years.

“The amount of Child Care Benefit a family receives is determined by a family’s individual circumstances such as family income, number of children in care, the type of care and hours used.

“Importantly, the Government will continue to index (that is increase) the Child Care Benefit standard hourly rate, the weekly rate and the multiple child loadings by the Consumer Price Index from July each year.

“In fact, the Child Care Benefit maximum hourly rate for one child increased by $0.11 to $4.10 an hour from 7 July 2014, which resulted in many families seeing an increase in their Child Care Benefit.”

Shadow Minister for Childhood Education Kate Ellis released a statement indicating that the only certainty to come from this process is the Abbott Government’s refusal for additional child care funding.

“Any new programs for families, such as subsidies for nannies, can only be funded through cuts to the existing child care services that families rely on every day and I know many would be deeply concerned about this,” Ms Ellis said.

“Tony Abbott said he commissioned this report to look at ways to improve child care affordability, yet his own Government has already announced over $1 billion in child care cuts.”

When contacted by Neos Kosmos Ms Ellis said the Government’s cuts would be felt by even the lowest income threshold families.

“The assistant minister’s own department has revealed that over 500,000 low and middle income families will be worse off as a result of the cuts that they are pushing through the parliament.”

“We also know that the legislation before the parliament serves absolutely no purpose but to cut $230 million that would otherwise be awarded to Australian families to help assist them with their childcare costs.”

The ACTU and Unions NSW have reportedly supported means-testing. When contacted, ACTU President Ged Kearney said that the requirements of children must be prioritised and not be undermined.

“The ACTU is in a unique position to provide insight into both the childcare needs of working parents and the employees who work in the sector and there is agreement that the quality care of children is contingent on well trained and remunerated employees working in a well regulated sector,” Ms Kearney said.

“The provision of quality, affordable and accessible child care that promotes workforce participation of women and is delivered to meet the needs of children must not be compromised.”

Neos Kosmos also approached the Alpha Children’s Centre in Melbourne on the matter but it declined to comment.

source: Neos Kosmos

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