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Childcare groups demand urgent action

04/12/2018 / by admin

Childcare is a sleeper issue in the election, with Labor yet to release its policy and the Coalition proposing a single new subsidy paid for by separate cuts to family payments. Photo: Peter Braig Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met four-month-old Ezekiel during a street walk in Stirling in the Adelaide Hills on Friday. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Australia’s peak childcare bodies have joined together in an unprecedented bid to push childcare to the forefront of the election campaign, calling for an immediate boost in government support to help parents cope with rising fees.

With the Coalition’s $3 billion childcare package delayed until 2018 at the earliest, the groups are demanding an immediate increase to the Childcare Rebate cap from $7500 to $9000 a year to cover out-of-pocket costs. They also want a 25 per cent increase in the separate Childcare Benefit, which would see payments rise by $52 a week from the current $209.

Childcare is a sleeper issue in the election, with Labor yet to release its policy and the Coalition proposing a single new subsidy paid for by separate cuts to family payments.

Paul Mondo, secretary of the Australian Childcare Alliance, said the value of childcare payments had eroded significantly in recent years and was forcing some parents to delay returning to work.

“Parents cannot wait another two years for action,” Mr Mondo said.

“Families need a commitment from all parties that they will move as quickly as possible to address the significant affordability issues they face.”

Figures released this week show the cost of childcare has grown at five times the rate of inflation, with costs ballooning to up to $200 a day in city centres.

This is the first time the Australian Childcare Alliance, Family Day Care Australia and the Early Learning and Care Council – which serve a combined 900,000 families through their centres – have united to create an election manifesto.

The groups welcomed the Coalition’s investment in childcare but called for low-income families to be provided with 15 hours of subsidised care a week, up from the proposed 12 hours.

“The sector is concerned that the proposed Jobs for Families package does not give adequate recognition to child development objectives and increasing access to early learning for children who need it most,” the groups write in a letter sent to the Coalition, Labor, the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team.

The groups are also calling for all parties to commit to: Investing at least an extra $3.1 billion in child care, and de-linking that spending from cuts to family payments.An immediate 25 per cent increase in the Childcare Benefit and lifting the Childcare Rebate cap to $9000 a year.Increasing the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in early childhood education.Funding universal access to preschool programs in the year before school beyond 2017.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: “The Coalition is the only party with a fully funded childcare policy.

“We’ve made tough decisions to find the savings to pay for our childcare policy but at every turn, Labor and the Greens stood in the way of the savings needed to pay for a policy that would put downward pressure on prices and provide more accessible, affordable and fairer childcare for families.”

Senator Birmingham said annual fee increases had been restricted to an average 3.6 per cent per year under the Coalition compared to 7.8 per cent per year during Labor.

Labor education spokeswoman Kate Ellis said: “Labor has announced that we will support the additional investment in early childhood but we want to make sure it is spent the best way possible.

“Independent modelling shows that one in three families will be worse off under the Liberals’ changes.

“We have severe concerns about the impact of their proposed changes on children and families, including low-income and vulnerable children who will have their early education cut in half.”

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