The Coalition's plans for child care

Flexibility, affordability and accessibility
Tony Abbott and the Coalition have won a landslide election and now the task begins on converting ideas into policy and reality.

So what does this mean for working families?

The Paid Parental Leave Scheme is due to be implemented by July 1 2015. Paid parental leave is set to increase from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks (six months). The pay rate will also increase from the current minimum wage to full pay, with a cap at $150,000 per working mother (which means therefore up to $75,000 per mother).

An interesting part of the Coalition’s child care policy is addressing the red tape and ratios of the National Quality Framework (NQF) that many child care providers are finding difficult to manage.

As its policy document says, the Coalition believes in the National Quality Framework in principle, but feels that the new ratios and qualification requirements may be too ambitious to achieve in the current time frame. The implementation is causing administrative and staffing problems for centres, with resulting costs being passed on to parents.

The NQF requires that centres must have one worker for: every four children aged under two; every five children from two to three, and; every 11 children from three to school age. By next January the NQF also requires every childcare worker to have a certificate III qualification, half the staff to have a childcare diploma and every centre must have a degree qualified early childhood teacher.

The increased necessity for more qualified staff may drive much loved, appreciated and dedicated, though unqualified carers out of child care, and will mean higher staff costs for providers. There simply aren’t enough degree qualified Early Childhood Teachers to meet the demand from centres. Especially when degree qualified Early Childhood Teachers are in demand by schools as well. It’s hard to compete with higher pay, 3 months holidays per year and school hours!

The ratios may not be sustainable for child care providers, particularly for family day care who would stand to lose a fifth of their income.

The shortage of child care is also being addressed in restoring funding to Occasional Care Centres and in the review of ratios and qualifications.

Outside of School Hours Care is also being addressed as a priority to take the pressure of working families, providing OOSH with more funding and help within the NQF to ensure that there are enough places for those children of parents who require before and after school care due to work commitments.

Flexibility is also key in terms of providing child care solutions for parents who cannot meet the standard 9-5pm working day and therefore standard child care hours. Again this will be reviewed in the Productivity Commission Inquiry.

To see a full account of how the Coalition aims to address the issues of child care, click here to read or download their policy document.

A lot is riding on the $2million Productivity Commission Inquiry that will take 12 months to deliver results and recommendations and then however long it takes to act on and implement those recommendations.

Proposed Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare will look into:

  • Consideration of care in the “24 hour economy” (the hours parents work or study, or wish to study)
  • Consideration of extending support to care provided by nannies and au-pairs.
  • Subsidising nannies and the particular needs of rural, regional or remote parents, as well as shift workers
  • Out of pocket costs of childcare (to include in-home care solutions – i.e., au pairs and nannies – as well as day care and family day care)

The Coalition also:

  • Ruled out means testing the Child Care Rebate
  • Supports continuation of Child Care Benefit
  • Proposes to re-establish the Federal Planning and Advisory Commission to ensure that new services are approved on an as needs basis.
  • Opposes the EYQF mechanism adopted by Labor to deliver temporary pay increases only to some workers and believes pay issues should be addressed through making a case to the Fair Work Commission.