The national children’s peak body Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has welcomed the Commission of Audit’s recommendation to merge the child care rebate and the child care benefit into one payment.
However, ECA CEO Samantha Page has cautioned that the structure of the system mustn’t leave families worse off, especially those on lower household incomes. The calculation provided by the Commission of Audit, capping subsidies at $12,000 at the lowest end of the system, will leave families using fulltime care thousands of dollars worse off.
“We are glad the report authors recognised the complexity of the current system and the issues of having two payments available to families,” said ECA CEO Samantha Page.
“We have supported this move in our submission to the Commission of Audit, especially if it was paid directly to providers. By streamlining payments and paying subsidies to services, we can reduce out of pocket expenses for families and make long day more accessible.”
The Commission of Audit has also recommended that in-home care models such as nannies should be subsidised under the revised system to provide parents more flexibility.
“While there is some merit in allowing families greater flexibility by accessing subsidised in-home care, we need to ensure children’s safety by making sure those providers are regulated and appropriately qualified,” said Page.
“In-home care by itself isn’t the solution to all our problems- it will still be fairly expensive and will be out of reach for many families.”
The recommendation to introduce a voucher system for access to accredited early childhood services in Indigenous communities is another concern to ECA.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable than non-Indigenous children. However, there is a strong evidence base that participation in high quality early childhood education and care services can turn this around,” said Page.
“ECA is concerned that by replacing funded programs with a voucher system, it will significantly impact our most vulnerable children.”
Other major points:
- ECA supports the move to reduce the Paid Parental Leave scheme and increase investment in early childhood education and care services.
- The application of a work, training, study test to the revised subsidy system will have a significant impact on disadvantaged children accessing early childhood programs for development purposes, where their parents are not working. These children will not be eligible for any support.
- Other recommendations that impact on low-income households will have a major effect on the developmental outcomes of children in those environments
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