Mums to Stop Work Over Childcare Subsidy Cuts - Survey
4 February 2014 at 11:00 am
Australian working mums will take a hit if childcare subsidies are reduced, a national survey by a major Not for Profit early learning and care provider has revealed.
Mission Australia’s national survey of about 650 parents and carers with children currently enrolled in childcare and early learning centres found that almost 40 per cent of respondents would reduce work hours if current subsidies were cut.
More than one in five would stop work altogether, the survey found.
In 2009, Mission Australia helped form the Not for Profit company, Goodstart, alongside Social Ventures Australia, the Benevolent Society and the Brotherhood of St Laurence to purchase and manage the collapsed ABC Learning childcare business.
Goodstart now has 13,000 staff that support more than 61,000 families and the 73,000 children at its 641 centres around the country.
According to the Mission Australia survey, those in the most disadvantaged communities would be the worst hit, with one third saying they would have to quit their jobs.
“Disadvantaged children are also the most likely to miss out on early learning programs if subsidies are reduced, with almost 60 per cent of respondents in disadvantaged communities saying they would cut back on their use of paid childcare, compared with around 50 per cent overall,” Mission Australia said.
“Even with current subsidies in place, almost half of respondents said early learning and care is not affordable, with the gap between the haves and have-nots most evident.
“Only 27 per cent of parents and carers in the most disadvantaged communities said they viewed childcare as affordable, compared with 50 per cent in the most advantaged areas.”
The survey also highlighted the importance parents place on quality when it comes to early learning and care for their children.
When asked what is important to them when choosing a childcare centre:
- 94.5 per cent say qualified staff is “extremely” or “very” important;
- 91.4 per cent rate focus on learning as “extremely” or “very” important;
- 88.8 per cent say high staff child ratio is “extremely” or “very” important.
Mission Australia Early Learning Services General Manager, Marie Howard said the results highlight the need for ongoing funding to ensure all children got the best start in life.
“The message in these results is clear – we need to ensure adequate investment in childcare and early learning continues, or women and children will miss out,” Howard said.
“Research continues to show that high quality early childhood education is amongst the most cost effective educational interventions and is likely to be a profitable investment for society as a whole.
“Combined with the contribution of higher participation of women in the workforce, expanding the opportunities for early learning and childcare has the potential to deliver significant returns to the Australian economy.
“Australia has come a long way in terms of both women’s workforce participation, and children’s access to quality early childhood education – but we still have a long way to go.
“We certainly can’t afford to let things go backwards, but these survey results show we’ll do just that if subsidies are eroded.”
Howard said the survey results also showed parents really care about quality and want to make sure their children were in a positive learning environment.
“Childcare is not about finding a babysitting service for children when parents have to go to work. It’s about giving children a chance to learn and interact, to develop skills and knowledge that will give them the best start in life,” Howard said.
“This is why it’s vitally important that Australia continue to implement the national quality framework, which is ensuring all childcare and early learning centres around the country provide a higher quality of programs and care for our children.
“Investment in quality is particularly important in disadvantaged communities, where good early learning programs can help ensure children who might otherwise fall through the cracks can get the support they need to make a successful transition into school.
“The early years are crucial to every Australian child’s development. Investment in providing the best possible education and care for our youngest citizens will set this generation up for a brighter future, which will also be better for the Australian economy overall.”
The survey results have been used to inform Mission Australia’s submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning.
The submission calls for action to make early learning and care more affordable and accessible for all parents, with quality to remain front and centre.
Key recommendations include:
- Allocation of funding support where it has the most impact, which is in the most disadvantaged communities;
- An extension of this level of support to children from disadvantaged families and communities (as well as children with disabilities, or requiring additional support) to have free or almost free early learning care. To achieve this we recommend an immediate trial across Australia’s most disadvantaged areas of free universal access to childcare;
- Maintaining the National Quality Framework (NQF), noting the extensive evidence and support for quality education;
- Reviewing the current value of childcare subsidies in light of their diminishing value across all income levels. Evidence presented shows that as the level of subsidies decrease so does workforce participation;
- Simplifying the payment and support system for childcare and where possible harmonising the childcare system across states and territories;
- Immediate support for innovative and integrated models of support for disadvantaged families, ensuring parents are engaged and participate;
- Ensuring childcare remains affordable for all families, noting the benefits of early learning and women’s participation are public goods, will be necessary to support the Australian economy into the future, and should be funded according to both public and private benefit;
- Continue funding of the Australian Educational Development Index (AEDI) as a benchmark on how well we are doing as a Nation for vulnerable children.