Concerns have been raised that some children may miss out on early education opportunities because their families won’t qualify for subsidies under the Abbott government’s new childcare plan.
Children of families with an income of $65,000 or under will continue to be subsidised for 12 hours of child care a week.
But those over that threshold, with a parent not working or studying for at least eight hours a fortnight, won’t receive government help.
That has several groups worried that these children will be locked out of early childhood education.
Labor’s early childhood spokeswoman Kate Ellis says there are elements of the government’s package that Labor would welcome in principle, but there were issues.
“We are concerned by reports today that lower-income families will have their access cut in half, and others will be pushed out of the system entirely,” she said in a statement.
Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page is urging the government to reconsider this measure.
“We really would like those families to continue to have a minimum base level of access of two days a week,” she said.
“We think that’s good for children and an enabler for parents who want to re-engage with the workforce.”
Advocacy group The Parenthood also fears children of parents who don’t work may be forced to come out of childcare.
“The changes to the eligibility for their subsidies disregards the importance of such care for early learning,” executive director Jo Briskey told ABC TV on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the federal government shouldn’t use an overdue boost to childcare funding as an excuse to make unpopular cuts in other areas, according to union group United Voice.
Families could be better off by $1500 a year on average under the childcare reforms to encourage mothers back to work in Tuesday’s budget, although some will lose out.
The $3.5 billion package appeared to be a significant and welcome injection of funding into the sector, United Voice Assistant National Secretary Helen Gibbons said on Sunday.
But she warned the government against tying the changes to family payment cuts or other controversial savings measures.
“We would really be distressed to see children and families being used as political footballs in a senate game,” Gibbons said.
“It’s really important this government doesn’t tarnish what is a good news story for them.”
If the government was really committed to helping families, she said they would bring forward the 2017 start date for the “already overdue” reforms.
Gibbons also criticised a plan to cut childcare subsidies for stay-at-home parents with a family income over $65,000.
“This is a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that it’s for people who are not working and are just going shopping – my experience is that is a tiny amount of a family’s experience,” she said.
But the new plan for a streamlined, single childcare payment paid directly to childcare centres was a smart move, she said.
United Voice represents more than 150,000 childcare workers across Australia.
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