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My plans for childcare on school grounds.



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LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION HON KIM C. BEAZLEY MP 16 March 2006

MY PLAN FOR CHILDCARE ON SCHOOL GROUNDS

A Beazley Labor Government will provide new capital funding to establish new childcare centres on primary school grounds.

My plan for childcare centres at schools gives mums and dads a chance to save valuable hours each day, by ending the dreaded ‘double drop-off’ of kids.

It’s a plan that finds valuable extra time for parents and addresses the Australian economy’s pressing need for more skilled workers.

My plan gives parents a real chance to balance the demands of work and family life, and gives mums and dads an opportunity to do more paid work.

It’s a plan that shows Labor’s listening to average Australians who want to work hard and raise a family; the same Australians ignored by John Howard.

After ten long years of the Howard Government many Australian families can’t get child care at all - and those who do pay more and more every year.

Labor’s plan for childcare centres on school grounds is the first part of a five-point plan to make childcare work for families. Other key reforms include:

• Unlocking unused places for outside school hours, holiday and family day care to address shortages which arise during the year. • Funding councils to establish single waiting lists for local childcare places - saving parents running around to every centre in town. • Better planning so new places go to areas that need them most. • Fixing the child care tax rebate red tape disaster.

Labor will also be announcing further childcare measures in the lead up to the election. Only Labor understands that fixing the child care shambles is a crucial part of protecting our future prosperity and building our community.

It’s good for mums and dads, it’s good for kids, and it’s good for an Australian economy put at risk by skills shortages.

SYDNEY, THURSDAY 16 MARCH 2006

CONTACT: George Svigos 0417196 836

ATTACHMENT - HOW LABOR’S PLAN WORKS

Extra capital funding to establish new childcare centres on primary school grounds.

Under Labor’s plan, the Federal Government would work with State and local governments, school systems and child care operators in partnerships to establish new centres on primary school grounds and other suitable community land.

The Federal Government and the childcare operator would jointly fund the capital cost of establishing a new centre. The land owner (whether a State or local Government or a non-government system or school) would make the land available on agreed terms.

Labor would set aside specific funding to deliver this capital investment.

Ongoing costs of the childcare centre would be funded in the normal way, through Child Care Benefit and parent fees.

Setting up new childcare centres on primary school grounds has many practical advantages.

The cost of land is a major barrier to new child care operators entering the market, and therefore a major reason child care is in such short supply, especially in built-up areas. Yet some schools have ample space for a child care centre.

Co-locating childcare centres and schools helps to ensure childcare is a place for learning as well as care. Quality care which delivers child development and early learning can be more than just a safe and supportive environment for children - it can be a head start in life.

Transition from child care to school would be easier for young children who have been able to attend a child care centre at their local school.

Best of all, establishing new childcare centres on primary school grounds would be great for families because it would mean a single pick up and drop off: an end to all that running around from home to child care to school and work every morning - and then back again every afternoon.

Other key reforms:

Unlocking unused places for outside school hours, holiday and family day care to address shortages which arise during the year.

Thousands of children can’t get outside school hours care, holiday care and family day care because even though the Federal Government has put money aside for places, the system for allocating places is a bureaucratic nightmare.

For example more than 67,000 outside school hour places funded in previous budgets are not being used, even though parents desperately need those places. Outside school hours providers were able to apply for places in November 2005 - but they will not be asked again until November 2006.

The same bureaucratic mess means that Family Day Care misses out too.

Labor will unlock unused outside school hours, holiday and family day care places so that if there is funding for a place then an existing service which has demand from parents and the capacity to care for more kids can use that funding

to care for a child

Funding councils to establish single waiting lists for local childcare places - saving parents running around to every centre in town.

Labor will offer grants to local councils and groups of councils to establish “single waiting lists” for parents looking for a long day care place in their local area. This could include funding for specially designed software to manage this information, as well as a contribution to the cost of staff. Some local councils already run similar waiting lists for family day care, where parents and providers can get information about child care places in their local area. Similar systems for long day care waiting lists are being trialled in a number of Victorian local government areas.

Naturally parents would still be able to deal directly with childcare centres, but this would be a great way to help parents and centres.

Currently parents have to put their names down on many lists, sometimes even paying a deposit of $20 - $100 each time. Centre operators and councils often have to deal with distressed parents, pressuring them to find a place for their child.

This system would take the pressure off parents and centres.

Better planning so new places go to areas that need them most.

The Howard Government collects no information on areas of need in long day care. While the Government now admits there are shortages, they say they have no information on where the shortages are and no plans to fix them.

The “single waiting list” system would provide information to providers and parents as well as the Federal Government which is not currently available on shortages in childcare. This information, combined with demographic information about population growth, would allow better decisions about future investment in childcare.

This would ensure Labor’s investment in childcare centres on primary school grounds (and other community land) is directed to where it is needed most. It would also enable the market to work more efficiently by ensuring parents know where places are available and operators know where demand is unmet.

Fixing the child care tax rebate red tape disaster.

Parents are still waiting to see a single cent of the Government’s rebate on out-of-pocket childcare expenses promised during the last election campaign.

Parents will always be waiting up to two years for fee relief under the government’s regime.

Now Government backbenchers are openly calling for the rebate to be completely overhauled.

As part of Labor’s plan, I put forward three practical solutions to the problems with the Government’s rebate to allow parents to get the money when they need it - as the bills are rolling in:

• let parents self-assess their entitlement to the rebate, and claim it in the same financial year they paid their bills, as with work-related expenses; or

• let parents choose to have the Australian Tax Office assess their entitlement and pay the rebate when child care providers send the ATO the data directly, eliminating the risk of over payment or underpayment; or

• let parents apply to the Tax Office for permission to have the rebate spread throughout the year, by paying less tax each fortnight, as with family tax benefits.

I urge Mr Costello to adopt these solutions in the upcoming Budget.