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The Forum > Article Comments > Taking the lottery out of child care > Comments

Taking the lottery out of child care : Comments

By Lin Hatfield Dodds, published 22/3/2006

Making child care simpler and fairer should be key elements in proposals to improve our child care system.

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Regarding childcare. I agree there is an issue regarding available services, which is getting worse, with the continuing closures of childcare centres.

Government needs to decide what its policy is. Either it should be encouraging women back to work via the supply of good quality childcare that is affordable or if it wishes women to stay at home they should require paid maternity leave. One or the other, at present the policies seem mixed, women and families loosing out on both sides.

However I am looking forward to the tax rebate (as a childcare user). Childcare is expensive, even for middle income earners. Where my two children are 3 days a week it costs me $18,000 a year post tax, so I have to earn at least $30,000 part time to cover the costs, this does not include other costs such as getting to and from work. I am glad this rebate is not means tested (as everything else is, via income tax, CCB and now in Port Melbourne via the fee structure for childcare in Council owned facilities). We receive the minimum CCB due to our combined incomes being over the threshold for assistance, however this is because I work. As middle income earners we are allowed little access to any support financially for our family, however pay probably the highest levels of income tax on a portionate basis, plus other taxes (i.e. not rich enough for tax avoidance schemes as not enough disposable income, not poor enough to fall under the welfare banner).

I agree that there are people in our society who need help. I am all for a progressive system to fund the less fortunate. However sometimes I wonder if anyone is prepared to think about those in the middle who are ignored by all - policy makers, social commentators, academics etc.
Posted by belles, Wednesday, 22 March 2006 10:29:18 AM
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belles - you have my sympathy as I found myself in exactly the same situation. I ended giving up a much loved part-time job because I was paying more in child-care and other expenses than I was earning. Combined with the hassles with getting children to and from the right places, being continuously late for work, having no-one else to care for them if they were sick and having to forfeit all the after school activities they love it became a simple decision - it just isn't worth working unless you are eligible for any of the rebates. I am grateful that we can survive on a single income otherwise life would be very difficult. There has to be a better solution.

Ideally I would hire someone to pick the children up from school and take them to all the activities but apparently not only does this still cost more than I would earn but it is impossible to find anyone willing to do it. There is also a waiting list for places at the very substandard afterschool care facility near the school where the children have no-where to run around. So even now with all three children at school things haven't improved. The main thing I have learnt is if you want to keep a career going then do not have more than one child and make sure either your partner or Grandma is willing and able to help out.

I have taken up voluntary work at a local school for disabled children instead - flexible hours, no need for after school care or vacation care, it is very rewarding, keeps me sane and even without payment I am no worse off financially!
Posted by sajo, Wednesday, 22 March 2006 11:47:59 AM
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Sorry Belles, the 30% rebate will not offer you any help at all. This poorly constructed policy is an apalling waste of money as it only serves to increase demand for a supply constrained service thereby forcing costs upwards. In line with every other subsidy and handout the cost rise will be equivalent to the value of the original subsidy. We are already witnessing this in action as child care fees have risen sharply already with some centres even quoting prices minus the subsidy complete with a form to sign paying the benefit directly to their account. If our government was truly interested in making child care more readily available perhaps they should address the supply side issue first followed by the regulatory side. Only then will the natural market force of competition keep costs affordable for a wider percentile of the community.
Posted by crocodile, Wednesday, 22 March 2006 11:54:54 AM
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I agree with the central premise of this article that simple and fair childcare with access for anyone who needs it (including those who cannot afford to pay the now astronomical prices some centres ask for) should be a priority.

Sajo - thanks for your thoughtful post: its seems lots of people find themselves in the situation where they have to make a really tough decision about whether working is worth it for the extra money you can bring home as a second wage-earner.

I agree with crocodile that, without major spending at some level of government on creating some new places in all kinds of care (family day care, after school and centre care) the rebate isn't much use to anyone.

I'd also argue that the Fed Govt isn't spending any money on the so-called rebate: most of the parents at our centre are being told they're not eligible even though many of those parents are only working part-time, and those that are eligible are being told time and time again that the payment of the rebate is being delayed.

All this while most governments are running a huge surplus. I hate to state the obvious, but surely if there's a surplus there's more money to be spent or they're taxing too much? I'm happy for them to spend (more) of my money - just wish they'd do it already.
Posted by seether, Wednesday, 22 March 2006 2:38:33 PM
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I don't believe the answer is throwing more government money at child care - it only has the effect of increasing fees and why should the childless have to pay for childcare - schools and preschools and even playgroups are essential to education and child development but expensive childcare is not. Effort is required on the part of schools and employers.

Schools - School hours should fall more in line with work hours. Instead of children having to go to a separately run before and after school care centre they should be able to participate in sports and art and music etc. classes run through school. This would require more teaching and supervisory staff but I can't see why it isn't possible. At present those children who attend after school care miss out on many extra-curricula activities - it is no wonder so many children are overweight. School grounds and buildings are barely used outside 9am to 3pm. Some private schools are already leading the way in this. Many already have pre-schools and I do not think it will be long before they incorporate child care centres.

Employers - should offer a child-care placement scheme to all staff that can be salary sacrificed. It is not necessary to have on-site facilities which are difficult to achieve, cost those who do not use the facility and are often not in the childs best interests anyhow. The main contribution from employers in my mind would be to offer far more part-time opportunities so that parents can work 9-2:30pm or thereabouts rather than having to dash home just in time to pick up tired children at 6:00pm. Currently most part-time positions are only available to previously full-time employees or are in lower skilled jobs.

If parents were confident that taking a career break is not suicidal then more would take time off to spend with their younger children which would relieve the pressure on child care places and allow families time to enjoy each other rather than dashing around trying to keep up.
Posted by sajo, Wednesday, 22 March 2006 6:29:00 PM
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I always find Australian's some of the most greedy people on Earth, and statements like "These are modest proposals" talking about $700 million dollars simply confirms that belief.

I also fail to see why the subsidy doesn't drop to 0, thereby excluding people that are not poor from getting subsidized by other people with potentially less money that them
Posted by rc, Wednesday, 22 March 2006 7:31:58 PM
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