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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3714

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled in Parliament:

The Petition of certain electors of the Division of Bowman draws to the attention of the House the recent policy reducing Child Care Assistance (CCA) eligibility for parents when their child/ren are absent for holidays and respectfully submit that this be reversed as a matter of urgency in the interest of families.

We oppose the 1 April 1996 introduction of this policy to reduce CCA for families which fails to honour Australia's ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 156; Workers with Family Responsibilities. This includes the commitment to assist employers and workers as:

   Workforce participation increases;

   Participation of women in education and training increases;

   Nearly half of sole parents are in paid employment; and

   Men and women balance family responsibilities.

Your petitioners therefore request that the House reverse the legislation which reduced to 50 per cent the entitlement of CCA for families at times when their child/ren are absent from centres for holidays, and thus ensure that:

1. All parents have fair and equitable access to affordable, flexible and high quality child care options.

2. Affordability of places in child care centres is enhanced.

3. Family members are not forced, due to additional financial burdens, from their current employment thus causing considerable loss of skills in Australia's workforce.

4. The value of the family unit be recognised and supported in the introduction of all government policies.

5. Thorough investigation be given to the long term effects and increased social security payments which would be necessary to sustain families forced to reconsider workforce participation through introduction of government policies reducing support to families utilising child care services.

6. Sole parent access to the workforce and/or further education is supported rather than deterrents provided. This is particularly important given the recent Bureau of Statistics reports that indicate a 42 per cent increase in sole parent families over the last decade.

7. Child care services are able to maintain fees at affordable levels and are not forced to reduce the provision of valuable services to families eg. nappy service, meals etc.

8. The detrimental effects this policy has on families be acknowledged and that government give a commitment to address these issues as a matter of urgency through:

Reinstating parents entitlement to full CCA during holiday periods and considering rationing access to CCA for non-work/study related care.

We support the right of all families to access child care for respite, special needs and social interaction in the interest of equity, however, we believe some balance and form of rationing to be essential in significantly curbing the government's estimated CCA payments of $1055 million by June 1999. (particularly given the existence of support through the home care allowance.)

The introduction of some form of rationing would also serve to provide a realistic picture of need for care places nationally and discourage further growth and proliferation of child care centres reliant on government funding and tax payers' money.

9. Clients of child care services be provided with the opportunity to provide input to future government policy changes affecting quality of care and family life, in addition to consulting with child care providers.

This could be most effectively implemented through utilising existing state parent associations and working parties in various electorates.

10. A national planning framework be established as a matter of urgency to address the current situation of over supply, particularly in SE Queensland.

Mrs West