Tuesday, 21 April 2020
REPORTER: Amanda what are we seeing in regards to child care at the moment?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: The changes the Government made has meant child care centres haven’t necessarily been funded to take on new children and families, and as a result we’re seeing families who thought they had a place in child care actually be turned away. So this might be women coming back to work from maternity leave and finding out that indeed there’s no place for them. We’re hearing from women who might have been offered more hours at work – pretty unusual in these circumstances, but there are jobs that require more hours at work – and those women aren’t able to get extra child care at their centre.
So what we’re seeing is women, men, families having to turn down work in this really difficult time because they can’t get child care. What I’d really like the Government to do is properly fund centres so they can look after the children they’ve currently got, but also make sure those returning to work or getting the offer of more hours get the opportunity to get the care they need.
REPORTER: What sort of impact is it having on families financially right across the country?
RISHWORTH: It’s having a really big impact on families, because what we’re seeing is families who might need to take extra work, the second breadwinner might have to take on extra work, but they’re not able to do this as they’re being constrained with the care they can get. Other families are seriously looking at whether grandparents can take children so parents can get back to work, and others are saying they might have to quit their job because they can’t get the child care they need. So this is having a really big impact on families, but it’s also having an impact on children. Children are participating in early education and that is being affected by the problems in this area.
REPORTER: What’s caused this issue?
RISHWORTH: The Government has cut back the funding to centres so they only get 50 per cent of their revenue from a date in March, and not allowed for gap fees to be paid by families. That’s a good outcome for families that are in care and can access care, but what it’s done is meant centres simply can’t afford to take on new families and some centres indeed are turning families that are already on their books away because they can’t afford to provide that care.
So this is having a really big impact on some families who are not able to get in. We know a lot of women in particular return to work from maternity leave relying on being able to get a child care place, and many put their names down months before they return to work. What they’re hearing now because of the change in the system and the lack of funding from the Government is that their place is no longer available.
REPORTER: We just heard from Justine who said this isn’t the child care centres fault, their hands are tied, they would love to let new enrolments in. It’s a difficult position for the centres as well isn’t it?
RISHWORTH: Centres are in a terribly difficult position because they’ve had their funding cut in half. So this is a really difficult position for parents to be in, and of course what the Government has done is put all the responsibility on the centres. They’ve cut their funding, but put all the responsibility on the centres as to who gets a place and who doesn’t. For centres that is a really difficult position to be in. So what the Government has to do is seriously look at centres that need extra funding and fund them. We’ve also heard from a lot of centres that have applied for extra money and been rejected, and now they’re left in the unenviable position of turning families away but also looking at which children they might have to un-enrol.
REPORTER: How difficult is it to get your kids into child care at the moment if they’re not already enrolled?
RISHWORTH: We’re hearing from many centres that they simply can’t take new children on, they can’t accommodate new families. We’re hearing that not just here in South Australia, but right around the country. This is a really difficult position for many families to be in and they simply can’t shop around, they can’t wait because their job is waiting for them, they need the care right now and they need the Government to act. Because while the Government has shored up care for some families, there are many families missing out.
REPORTER: You’ve got to feel for the parents in this situation don’t you, particularly at the moment when a lot of people have lost their jobs, those who have jobs all they want to do is go to work, and as Justine was saying it’s impossible to work from home with a 7-month old boy running around needing care.
RISHWORTH: It’s incredibly frustrating for families that can’t work or can’t do extra work because of their child care situation, particularly when they’re looking around and seeing many families actually lose work and they’ve got the opportunity to keep working. Many of these families are telling me they feel very lucky they still have a job and there are hours for them to work, but what’s stopping them is the availability of child care. I think that is incredibly concerning, not just for those families but for the economy. If we want to get the economy moving again after this crisis, there needs to be the ability for families to access child care. It’s critically important and as it currently stands, some centres are just not able to accept new families.
REPORTER: How do you fix it?
RISHWORTH: The Government has seriously got to look at funding these centres properly. They need to look at the demand in these centres and fund the demand that is there. That would go a long way to helping these centres. Especially when there’s a base level of funding, what they need to do is if there is more children than that base level of funding provides for, actually make sure that they’re funding this properly.
REPORTER: Obviously difficult to make policy on the run and under so much financial pressure, but do you think they’re sort of undercut the businesses?
RISHWORTH: I think what they’ve done is probably reacted to what was a genuine problem in the sector, there were genuine viability issues in the sector before the Government reacted with baseline funding. But what they haven’t done is build enough flexibility in the system to ensure that supply ultimately meets demand. So they haven’t really considered how to make sure demand and supply meet, which is where the problem is. So I certainly welcomed their announcement to sure up the viability of the sector, but they need to seriously look at the unintended consequences and the impact they have on families and the broader economy.
REPORTER: I suppose the crux of it is there’s more kids at the moment that need child care than there are spaces available?
RISHWORTH: In many centres, not all, but for many their demand is outweighing supply with the money they’ve been given by the Government. Ultimately centres have been given a certain amount of money and they can only take so many children, if there are more children than what the centre has in terms of places then they are turning children away. And that directly comes down to the amount of money the Government is giving them.