Push for increase in childcare funding for babies and toddlers to urgently address shortage

The childcare sector says more funding is urgently needed for children aged less than 3.

The childcare sector says more funding is urgently needed for children aged less than 3. Photo: Tamara Voninski

Pressure is growing on the Abbott government to fund new childcare spots for children under three years old, in a bid to fix a crisis in childcare availability. 

A group of the country’s biggest childcare providers is calling for a one-off funding boost for zero to three-year old places, arguing it would have an “immediate impact”. 

The youngest age group is the area of tightest supply and highest demand, as older children are able to attend pre-school. The places are also more expensive for centres to run, because younger children require more supervision and care. 

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Daniel Munoz

“The government has a real opportunity to free up supply by increasing the subsidy for children in care up to three years of age,” Early Learning and Care Council co-chair Bernie Nott said. 

“Such an increase in subsidy should reflect the higher cost of care.”

The push comes as the Abbott government prepares its new families policy, which is due for release before the May budget. Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is currently consulting with the childcare sector over his plans, which are due to be released within weeks. 

The Early Learning and Care Council, which includes major providers such as Guardian Early Learning, Goodstart Early Learning and the Creche and Kindergarten Association of Queensland, is also concerned about a proposal to increase the amount of time parents have to work before they access childcare funding. 

Parents are currently able to access 24 hours of the means tested Child Care Benefit per child per week without having to meet a work or study test. To access the non-means tested Child Care Rebate, both partners need to work or train “at some time” during the week – but there is no minimum number of hours required. 

Under a proposal before government, recommended by the Productivity Commission, parents would need to work for 24 hours a fortnight to access childcare funding. 

The Early Learning and Care Council says thousands of children whose mothers work less than 12 hours a week would drop out of the early learning system as a result of the policy. 

“We need to provide children with access to two days of early learning so we can reduce disadvantage, get children ready for school and life,” they argue in a briefing paper, adding that children’s early learning should not be disrupted if parents are in seasonal or casual employment. 

Parent advocacy body, The Parenthood has also warned that more than 100,000 women would be affected if the work hours requirement was increased.

“Not only would this new activity test punish thousands of children, denying them their right to access high quality early education, it will also punish tens of thousands of working mums gradually returning to work from maternity leave,” Ms Briskey said.

“According to the Productivity Commission, there are at least 16.4 per cent of mothers working less than 12 hours a week and by their judgment, this is a small enough number not to worry about whether or not they can afford to pay full price for childcare and continue to work.”

Ms Briskey said these women were often mothers to very young children who wanted to remain connected to work while spending time with their newborns. 

“Why on earth would we want to punish these women by taking away their support for childcare?”

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Source Article from http://theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/push-for-increase-in-childcare-funding-for-babies-and-toddlers-to-urgently-address-shortage-20150325-1m6hsp.html
Push for increase in childcare funding for babies and toddlers to urgently address shortage
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