NFP Concern Over Govt Childcare Package
5 April 2016 at 10:41 pm
A Senate inquiry into the government’s controversial Jobs for Families Child Care Package legislation has recommended that it be passed in it’s current form despite opposition from Not for Profit groups and the Australian Greens.
Early Childhood Australia said that as it was currently presented, the proposed activity test would mean that families with one or more parents not working for more than eight hours per fortnight would lose their eligibility for a childcare subsidy altogether.
“Low income families will still have access to 12 hours per week but this is a significant reduction from their current entitlement to 24 hours per week and it is insufficient to cover two days in a long day care centre,” the Not for Profit organisation said in a briefing paper.
“Advocates are unanimous in their concern about the impact this (legislation) will potentially have on children’s participation, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
“There are significant concerns amongst experts that the activity test may destabilise families and jeopardise workforce participation by reducing the participation of children whose parents are in irregular, insecure or variable work.These children are often those who stand to benefit the most from quality early learning programs.
“Parents returning to work after parental leave need to have children settled into early learning before they start work, it is a pre-requisite rather than an incentive to work. Making the eligibility for subsidy dependent on securing work first is back-to-front.”
The Senate Inquiry into the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Bill 2015 received 143 submissions from peak bodies and experts in childcare as well as members of the public.
Some 13 children’s and social service organisations and peak bodies took part in the Senate briefings.
According to the Australian Greens, who were part of the inquiry and delivered a dissenting report, a substantial number of submissions raised concerns in relation to the “activity test”.
“Despite the evidence provided and concerns raised by these experts, the Chair’s report has recommended that this Bill be passed,” the Greens said.
The Greens said it supported the Bill’s purported aim to “improve access to the affordability of early childhood education and care” and welcome the committee’s recognition that “access to high-quality early childhood education and care is of substantial developmental benefit to children in addition to its role in helping to facilitate parents’ workforce engagement”.
However, it said it was concerned that the measures included in the Bill as currently drafted would not achieve these aims, and would in fact result in a number of families being unable to access childcare or receive reduced access to subsidised care.
Download the Senate report here.