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Childcare policymakers don’t know families: researcher

A University of Queensland expert has announced there is a severe lack of understanding amongst policymakers of the flexible arrangements families need.

Dr Michelle Brady, from UQ’s School of Social Science, is investigating the childcare needs of lower-income families in the context of the federal government’s proposed childcare reforms. Her investigation focuses on families’ childcare arrangements, how well they fit with parents’ work hours and the changes in childcare that occur as children get older. Brady said understanding families’ experiences is vital to developing effective childcare policy, but there is little appreciation of these experiences amongst policymakers.

“Many Australian parents cannot access the flexible childcare they need,” Brady said. “Childcare flexibility and affordability is particularly important for low-income families, including solo parents, dual-earner families and those who have one earner but would like both parents to be able to engage in paid work. Much work (among policymakers) needs to be done to design the best system possible.”

She also expressed concerns regarding funding cuts to family day care, which are set to lose operational funding next month, as they would limit the flexibility of childcare arrangements.

But Brady did praise the recently announced Nanny Subsidy Pilot Scheme, set to begin in 2016, for seeking to address Productivity Commission recommendations that government assistance to families should be extended to home-based care services, in order to enhance accessibility and flexibility of childcare. However, she said it remained unclear whether this subsidy would extend to low-income families.

Brady is now seeking to interview low-income families about their childcare arrangements. Families with an income under $1200 a week after tax are invited to participate.

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