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Statement on Government affordability: assistance brings record child care growth

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Statement on Government affordability: assistance brings record child care growth

On 5 August 2013 the government assumed a Caretaker role, with an election to be held 7 September 2013.

Media releases, transcripts and speeches for the DEEWR Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary can be accessed via the ALP website until after the election and the conclusion of the caretaker period.

Wednesday 12 September 2012 Transcript

The Hon Kate Ellis MP [link:/ellis]

• Minister for Employment Participation • Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care

Our Government has worked hard to make child care more affordable, more accessible and better quality for Australian children and families.

That’s why we are investing a record $22.3 billion over the next four years in early childhood education and care, more than triple that of the former Liberal/National Government in its last four years in office.

It is why we so massively increased the Child care rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of parents out of pocket costs and why we increased the cap from $4,354 per child per year as it was under the Coalition to $7,500 per child per year now.

We’ve also made it easier than ever to claim child care assistance by paying the Child Care Rebate fortnightly as the bills come in rather than leaving parents to wait until the end of the year to receive any assistance. We understand the burden it can be on the family budget and have done more than any other Government to assist parents with their childcare costs and reduce the percentage of their disposable income being spent on such fees.

We also understand that parents want peace of mind, that when they drop their child off in the morning, they are placing them in the best of hands for quality care.

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All of the research now provides compelling evidence of the critical importance of the early years and that child care can never again be regarded simply as babysitting. We now know that at this stage, as up to 90 per cent of a child’s brain development occurs that we must offer the best early childhood education and care to contribute to the best outcomes for that child right throughout their life - developmental outcomes, social outcomes, educational outcomes and health outcomes.

That is why we worked to secure agreement with every state and territory government, of all different political persuasions, to agree on the National Quality Framework, which is now nine months into implementation. The effect of our Government’s reforms on our

child care system has been remarkable, and I am today able to share some figures with the House which illustrate this clearly. Some of those opposite have tried to claim that our reforms are causing masses of families to turn their back on approved care, and turn to, what they refer to, as “backyard care”.

Let us be very clear about the reality. There are more and more children using child care than ever before because of the steps we’ve taken to improve the quality and affordability for families. The figures on this are clear:

• In the year to September 2008 - a 1.79 per cent increase in the number of children using care • In the year to September 2009 - a 2.53 per cent increase • In the year to September 2010 - a 4.56 per cent increase • In the year to September 2011 - an 8.97 per cent increase.

It was only a short time ago that we announced that Australia had reached a milestone of one million children using care.

Today I can announce a new milestone for our early childhood education and care system. The 2011/2012 Annual Report figures show that for the first time there were 1.3 million children using child care over the year.

This represents a 20.6 per cent increase in the number of children using care since 2007. The figures also show that an extra 664 approved child care services opened during the 12 month period. These figures show that there’s been a 42 per cent increase in the number of approved child care centres since we came to government.

Never have we seen more children using child care in Australia in so many child care services. More children are getting access to an early childhood education under our Government. And more parents are getting the opportunity for the first time, to return to work and make life better for them and their young families.

This is a huge achievement for the sector, our Government, and the nation. Of course, this rapid expansion and growth also brings challenges. But I believe there are some practical things that can be done to make sure more children and families can access child care over the next four years.

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There are parents, mainly mothers, who can’t return to work, and can’t even access the increased child care assistance provided from the Federal Government, because they can’t first find a child care place. In the quickly developing growth corridors we need to ensure that new areas are not set up with these challenges.

In June, the Prime Minister and I participated in a live blog with Mama Mia readers and we heard some of the stories about the difficulty some parents are facing with lack of child care places. One mother said:

“I have had my child on wait lists to get into child care centres from before he was born. I am due to go back to work in August and they have all told me I won’t get a placement until next year. I am down on a Family day care list too, and they too have told me not to hold out for that. I can’t afford a nanny’s daily rate, it is more than what I get paid -

what I going to do come August to pay the rent and feed my child?”

Another mother said:

“I listed my daughter for the Sutherland Shire Council long day care in March, one week after she was born. I have been told the waiting list is long and I’ll be lucky to get even one day of care within a year. I want to go back to work but not having guaranteed childcare makes this nearly impossible.”

A lack of child care places doesn’t just affect those parents’ ability to make life better for themselves and their families - it affects our country’s productivity. Lost investment in skills, and lost potential in the development of our children - our future workforce.

Of course, we also know there are other child care services with low occupancy rates. Clearly we need better planning. Better planning to ensure that supply is meeting the changing demographics of communities, and better planning to ensure excess demand does not result in further increases to child care prices. Planning is a state and local government responsibility. But I believe that demand is so high now - that no matter what tier of government you are from - action to increased access to child care must be a top order priority.

That’s why I’ve written to states to prioritise work to overcome the barriers in their jurisdictions. And to look at removing the barriers to the supply of child care places where they are needed most. I am asking state, territory and local governments to take a hard look at whether zoning adequately reflects the child care needs of communities in the 21st century - the needs of 1.3 million plus children in care.

We will also push to ensure that regulations and by-laws do not unduly restrict the number of child care places in new services. I’ve personally heard from councils which automatically place greater barriers for child care with over 50 places - extra hurdles discouraging investment in much needed community assets.

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We’re asking state and local governments to look at ways of preventing the problem where new child care centres are held up for years just to get development consent. We’re asking them to look at making sure that building code requirements support the development of child care services in inner metropolitan areas, not restrict them.

We’re asking that all governments work with developers to ensure that child care is an integral part of new housing developments, not an afterthought. I am asking state and local governments to look at best practice in their jurisdiction and bring their ideas to the table about how we can build child friendly cities and communities into the future.

I have announced my intention to work through the Standing Council for School Education and Early Childhood Education to meet this challenge. Local government must also be part of the solution and be involved in the way forward.

Our Government wants more families to be able to benefit from our historic reforms and investment and we’re determined to work to continue to remove barriers and ensure that this is the case.


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