Wednesday, 30 May 2018
SUBJECTS: Turnbull Government’s unfair changes to child care, Turnbull Government cut funding to the National Quality Agenda
JULIE DOYLE: Amanda Rishworth, thanks for coming in today. Let’s start with these figures that are out today about the number of families that still have not switched over to the new child care system that is starting from July. If they do not switch over, we won’t get any government rebates after that time. How much of a worry is that?
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT, AMANDA RISHWORTH MP: It is a really big worry that now five weeks out from 1 July, we have close to 50 per cent of families who have not yet registered for the child care subsidy. I have been speaking with centres and they are also concerned about the progress of families actually signing on. We know that already as a result of the changes that 279,000 families are going to find themselves worse off, but without enrolling and actually registering your details and getting on the system, then there will be many more families that could indeed find themselves with no support at all, huge out-of-pocket costs, and in real financial difficulties.
DOYLE: What more can the government though? There has been TV ads, emails, text messages to tell people to update their details, so don’t people have to take some responsibility to follow this up themselves?
RISHWORTH: Of course the government has been pretty late coming to the table when it comes to allowing people to register, we know for a long time they had their calculator online, but that was not giving accurate information to many people, that was what I was told. We need the government to be supporting and working with centres, centres have said that this is taking a huge amount of staff time, working with their families, trying to actually get these families online. When centres have raised it with the government, the government has responded with maybe you should get a laptop and put it at the front.
DOYLE: The process is quick to update your details, so it goes back to my earlier question, don’t people have a personal responsibility here if they have been made aware of the situation to get online and update their details?
RISHWORTH: I’m not sure the government has reached everyone, and I think they need to look at a range of different ways to work with families, including supporting centres which are at the coalface when it comes to this. I think there is more the government can do and it is a big worry. Of course there are a lot of people that for the first time are going to have to have a MyGov account, and that is not always easy to set up and can be difficult. The government has not probably paying enough attention to this, probably could work with centres a lot better in terms of supporting families through this process.
DOYLE: Are centres doing what they can? They are the people who see these people every day when they drop their children off?
RISHWORTH: Centres are really really working with families, but a lot don’t actually know these individual personal circumstances. When I have talked to centres are about who in their centre might be better off or who might be worse off, centres are having to take a guess. They are having to say that this family might have a cut in subsidy, but we are not able to tell them, so I think there is more that the government could have done considering this has been years in the making. The government could have got this system up and ready well in advance and I think there is deep concern for families that may find themselves without that financial support, with large out-of-pocket results.
DOYLE: Another issue in the child care area, and this is from this year’s Budget, and the sector has risen raised concerns that the government has not continued the funding for the National Quality Agenda funding and that will run out at the end of the year. The states and territories will have to bear responsibility. What is the problem with the States picking up the responsibility that?
RISHWORTH: At the beginning of the implementation of the quality framework, that was where the Labor government sat down with states and territories and said we want to lift the quality of education in our early child care settings, and that was a really important piece of reform which I think everyone now recognises was critically important. At that time, the Commonwealth said we want to play a role. Through that process, it has funded the states of round just over 38 per cent in terms of the cost of compliance, because we all have an interest in making sure that centres meet the quality framework that there are not dodgy centres that are unsafe for children – 38 per cent. There is a role for the Commonwealth in ensuring that happens. A cooperative approach between the states and Territories was something that everyone thought was going to happen. The sector thought it was happening, the states were thinking it was happening. The states did not see this cut coming, indeed it was an aspiration that by 2020, the share of compliance would be a 60-40. They did not see this coming, and as a result, it will not be states that will be worse off, it will be families. Families will not know if safety checks have been conducted, if compliance has been met, because what Victoria is saying as one example, it will need 50 staff that are doing compliance checks and safety checks will not continue to have a job with these cuts.
DOYLE: From your discussions with the states, are they saying that they do not have the resources to pick this up and make sure that the safety checks are being done?
RISHWORTH: They have made an agreement with the Commonwealth to share responsibility and to share costs. They have budgeted with an understanding that the Commonwealth would have a role, so when the Commonwealth says we are going to strip all of the money around compliance and safety, yes, the states are saying there is a shortfall, and that will lead to having to let go of staff that do the safety and compliance checks, but I think the critical point here is that it is families and children that are going to be worse for these cuts.
DOYLE: Would you commit then, the sector has asked for Labor to restore the funding. Is that something you would do?
RISHWORTH: This has been a big shock. I am working to the processes of what Labor policies will be, and I do not see this coming, the sector did not see this coming, and states and territories do not see this coming.
DOYLE: If it is so serious, would you commit to restoring?
RISHWORTH: I will have to look through this and worked with the policy, but quite frankly, the minister has a responsibility here, and he has squibbed his responsibility of ensuring that families are safe and that children are safe and that the centres live up to the quality framework.
DOYLE: Alright Amanda Rishworth we will have to leave it there. Thank you very much.