ACA President Paul Mondo has expressed the ACA’s extreme disappointment that the Federal Government and crossbench have ignored a landmark opportunity to provide well balanced reform to child care subsidies and passed the Jobs for Families Legislation last night without ACA’s recommended amendments.
A summary of the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Bill 2016 and its progress through Parliament can be accessed here.
“This is an extremely disappointing result for the sector.” Mr Mondo said. “Our support of the Jobs for Families package was contingent on our recommendations being included in the new legislation, to better protect vulnerable and disadvantaged Australian children as well as ensuring an adequate safety net for many low income families.”
The ACA, in conjunction with representatives across the sector, worked tirelessly with government and the crossbench Senators to reinforce the need for the minimum level of access for children to be set at 15 hours to ensure maximum benefit of the learning opportunities at an Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) service.
The ACA acknowledges that the majority of working families will be better off under the proposed changes. However, our members take seriously the responsibility of providing opportunities for all children, particularly those from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds, to ensure they get the best possible start in life.
“We cannot accept the actions of the Government and Crossbench Senators in ignoring the plight of these families in their back room negotiations. Our proposed amendments also provided an opportunity for the government to provide more access for ATSI children to assist with their own “Closing the Gap” targets” Mr Mondo explained. “Standing up for these children, as well as those from low income families will continue to be a cause that the ACA fights for.”
The ACA's focus on the benefits of early learning and importance of school readiness has always clashed with the current government's view that this child care reform is only about ensuring that parents with young children can get back to work.
When children attend quality ECEC services, they experience significant benefits which in turn flow on to their family and the wider community. We are disappointed that this has not been recognised in this package.
As all ECEC service providers know, these benefits include better intellectual development and higher levels of concentration, sociability and independence. Children who enjoy quality ECEC are likely to be well socialised, confident, inquisitive about the world, accepting of diversity, resilient to manage challenges and also to be life-long learners.
The ECEC sector will now have to inform parents that from July 1, 2018, if they are a household with one stay at home parent and earn above $65,710 they will receive no subsidy at all to support access for their children in an early learning environment.
With over 30,000 families who currently receive some level of subsidy support in this circumstance, ACA believes this is a devastating outcome.
Now that the Jobs for Families package has been passed through the Senate, the ECEC sector will need to prepare for the transition period. Service providers will be challenged with a new set of processes and government software, whilst families will also need to understand how the new package will affect their rebates.
“These changes will affect more than 17,000 service providers across Australia and over 1.2 million families relying on ECEC services. It is important that owner/operators receive clear guidance during the transition period, which can in turn be passed on to parents or guardians.” Mr Mondo said.
The ACA will remain engaged with the relevant Departments during the rollout of the new Family Assistance regime, to keep service providers and families informed of how it will affect them and what is required of them under the new system.
It is hoped that the Government and relevant Departments will better heed the advice of the sector through the implementation process over the coming months.
Article updated Friday 24th March 2017