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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2008

Senator GILES —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. What recent initiatives have been taken in regard to the provision of children's services, with particular reference to satisfying the demand for additional places and providing subsidies for low income households?

Senator GRIMES —I would suppose the most recent change that has been made in the delivery of children's services in this country, which will improve the number of child care services available and make for a more rational development of those services, has been the development of co-operation between the Federal Government and the States, particularly the States of New South Wales and Western Australia. Under that co-operative effort, the States' contribution will be by way of the provision of land and sometimes buildings, and more particularly assistance to the Commonwealth in determining high need areas for children's services. In those three States, through that co-operative effort, we are able to build child care centres at a more reasonable cost and we are able to produce those centres in areas of greatest need, which had been one of the great problems in the distribution of children's services. Of course, we are able to do so at less cost to the Commonwealth because of the contributions of the various States. The New South Wales Government has developed a series of standard plans which has resulted in the capacity to build child care centres at a very much reduced cost compared with other States and previously most States. In Western Australia we have a joint Commonwealth-State planning committee which is in fact ensuring the distribution of children's services to areas of high need, particularly areas with large numbers of disadvantaged children.

As far as special assistance with subsidies is concerned, recently the Government announced the introduction of the new special economic needs subsidy, which involves an increased expenditure of about $5m. Compared with the old system, this results, we believe, in a more equitable distribution of funds and has resulted in assistance, particularly to low income families and families with more than one child who need care. So far, the announcement of the new system has been welcomed generally in the children's services area. Last year we increased expenditure by some $11m; this year, as Senator Giles would know, the Government has announced that it will spend another $30m on children's services. I hope that that expenditure, the initiatives we have already taken, and the co- operation of the States, together with the introduction of 24-hour day care centres where they are needed and work related centres where they are needed, will ensure a more comprehensive and more equitable system than has operated in the past and will enable us to increase the number of places at a much greater rate than has been the case in the past.