Childcare centres warn of fee increase if subsidy halted

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Childcare fees are predicted to rise as much as 10 per cent if a subsidy promised by the previous government is revoked by the Coalition.

The federal Department of Education has told providers a proposed $300 million fund earmarked for wage rises is now under review, with the money effectively frozen.

Centre operators say that without the government wage subsidy, fees will have to increase to support improvements in standards.

The Childcare Alliance’s Lyn Connolly, who operates seven Clovel childcare centres in Sydney, supports the review of the Early Years Quality Fund (EYQF) but was also concerned about fee increases.

”The main concerns of parents are accessibility and affordability,” she said. ”What we don’t want to see is a situation where improvements in quality drive up the cost to the point where childcare is priced out of reach and children end up in backyard care.”

The previous Labor government committed $300 million over two years to the EYQF, which would have meant a $3 an hour pay rise to certificate III-qualified staff, who earn about $19 an hour, and a $6 an hour pay rise to an early-childhood teacher. The wage rises were to go to about one-third of the country’s 100,000 childcare workers.

Industry sources say this money could equate to a 10 per cent fee increase for parents.

Goodstart Early Learning, which operates 655 centres nationally and had been awarded funding before the change in government, expects the wage rises to be honoured, according to chief executive Julia Davison.

Centres with conditional offers will continue to fight for the increase, according to Cheryl Shigrov, the national convener of trade union United Voice’s Big Steps in Early Childhood Education and Care campaign, which helped secure the funding.

”We will fight this,” she said. ”We’ve come this far and we’re not going to back down.”

The national convener of Australian Community Children’s Services, Prue Warrilow, said childcare workers would be bitterly disappointed but she did not expect an increase in fees.

”This will dash the hopes of a whole heap of people,” she said. ”This money would make a significant difference to the quality of their lives.”

Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley said potential wage increases should be a matter for the Fair Work Commission, adding that nothing would be decided about the EYQF until the review was finished at the end of the month.

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Childcare centres warn of fee increase if subsidy halted
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