Doorstop – unfair child care changes, 1 in 4 families worse off

Monday, 02 July 2018

Doorstop, South Australia

SUBJECTS: The Turnbull Government’s unfair child care changes, 1 in 4 families left worse off under child care changes, Bill Shorten.

NICK CHAMPION, MEMBER FOR WAKEFIELD : It’s great to have Amanda Rishworth, Labor’s child care spokesperson out in the Northern Suburbs here today at this very important childcare facility. It’s a facility I’ve admired for a long long time as they do important work with a really challenged cohort of kids and they do a great community service and great service to this state and to this nation. And Claire Dilliway has been an absolute champion for the northern suburbs just in representing these kids and making sure they have a voice and making sure that they feel loved and secured and educated. It’s great to have Amanda here, its great to have Claire here today and its my great pleasure to introduce Amanda.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Thanks Nick for inviting us out to see NACYS childhood centre. We’ve just done a tour and heard from both Claire and Emma about the great work that they do in providing high quality early education. Now, today the government’s new childcare subsidy comes into effect. Labor recongises there are some families which will be getting extra support but also one in four families that are going to get less support. We know the majority of those will be low and middle income families. The government is talking up their subsidy today but you will not hear them talk about those families which will be left behind, those who will not get the support and more importantly, the children that won’t get access to early education. I was talking to Claire before about the work that their early educators put in to make sure that early education is the best it possibly can be and that the children here get the best possible start to life. Well the government has made their priorities clear. They don’t believe that every child should get access to early childhood education in fact they seem to think that one in four families can be worse off. Now I’d also like to make a few comments about the increases in child care fees and the government’s response to that. We know that fees under this government, when it comes to childcare, have gone up by 20 per cent. Now last week we had the Minister, when revelations came out that centres were going to have to increase their fees by 10 per cent, what did the Minister say? He told families to just to shop around and go to a new childcare centre. Showing very little understanding about what families do, the connection they have with their educators and the connections that children make. But of course today we’ve heard that the Minister is going to waggle his finger at the childcare centres. What he fails to understand and what he shouldn’t be doing is blaming centres for the fact that they’ve had to implement these complex new arrangements without any support. They are now passing the government’s changes and the impact when it comes to implementation’s costs onto families. What we need is a Minister that’s honest with the Australian people. He said that his new system would put downward pressure on fees; well that’s clearly not the case. So I start where I began, it is time the Minister stops pretending and spinning that there are not families who will be worse off, there are and today we’ve heard about those families who will get their support cut in half, here at this centre. It is not good enough that Minister does not recognise these families and does not recognise that his policy has done nothing to put downward pressure on fees. It’s time he is honest and upfront. Now I would like to pass to Claire who has some concerns about the new system and has been working, over the weekend in fact, to get ready because it’s been such a bungle by the Government.

CLAIRE DILLIWAY, CEO NACYS: We’re sitting in limbo at the moment, this morning is when the portals were opened up for us to be able to access and we’ve been unable to get onto the portal so at this stage we do not know what we are working with. We’ve had no- we were really hoping we would have lead in time where we could do dummy runs and the training that we needed to do and get all the children entered into the system but as of point we’ve still not logged in. Our platform provider sent us an email on Friday telling us not to panic, they are on top of it please don’t phone them and as soon as its up and running they’ll let us know. We are a bit concerned for a couple of weeks’ time that if we don’t get this work done we will be in a cash flow problem in two weeks’ time when this money should be coming in for this week and like most child care centres we live from week to week and keep our costs as small as possible but there’s been a massive amount of work gone in out of hours by staff to prepare for this new system and at this stage we are still not on it. We also have real concerns, as an organisation, we exist to look after the most vulnerable children in our community which means the majority of our children are in that one in four that are going to be greatly effected in the decrease in hours they will be allowed to access and we don’t know what our increases will be at the moment until we can get on the system and start calculating it. Thank you.

RISHWORTH: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: So can you tell us more about the types of families that you say will be worse off? For example people who only have one parent working, is this fair to them?

RISHWORTH: The people that will be worse of – if you have one parent that is not working, maybe has a number of young children at home caring for an older parent, they might want to put their eldest two in child care, they will have their subsidy cut as of today. Unfortunately we have also other families that may be working causally or have insecure work that would have their children in child care for a number of days but because they don’t meet the highest threshold of the activity test their subsidy will be cut perhaps from 50 hours to 35 hours. We are hearing from families that may have a second carer that is in insecure work or casual work, just not fitting into the government cookie cutter activity test. Families that may be struggling with mental health problems or other issues and stay at home as a result may not fit into the government’s activity test and therefore will have their support cut. Families don’t come in one size, they come in all shapes and sizes and saying to the children that they will not have access to early education or they will have that access cut is really very mean spirited and pretty bad actions by this government.

JOURNALIST: In regards to Labor’s leadership what’s the likelihood of a leadership challenge should Labor lose any seats in these bi-elections?

RISHWORTH: Look there is no challenge happening here. We have Bill Shorten leading a Labor party that has clear values. Clear values about not giving $80 billion to the top end of town. Values that say, we, Labor want to invest in education, in health, we want to restore penalty rates. There is a really stark difference between what Labor will offer at a general election under Bill Shorten and what the Liberal Party will offer and I’m happy to test that in communities right around Australia any day of the week.

JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee you will support Bill Shorten if there was a leadership ballot?

RISHWORTH: Bill Shorten absolutely has my support. He is the leader of the Labor party and we will go to the next election with a clear contrast. As I said, from the government, a government that wants to give $17 billion to the big banks. These are the same banks, which is coming to light that through their actions they have ripped off customers, they have ripped off individuals and ruined people’s lives. This government wants to give $17 billion back to them. While Labor is very clear, under Bill Shorten we want to invest in hospitals, we want to invest in schools, we want to invest in the services that Australians rely on. There is a clear contrast there and as I said, I am happy to see that contrast put to the people in any community around Australia.

JOURNALIST: Back on child care, do you think the providers that have increased their fees significantly, should be named and shamed like the government is suggesting?

RISHWORTH: Look of course any provider that gauges the system should be named and shamed, I’m just not sure how effective that will be. The Minister waggling his finger at them is not really I think a sustainable solution. Let’s not forget that the Minister promised that his new system would put downward pressure on fees. He promised that there would be a cap on child care fees. Well we’ve seen in the last week that this is clearly not the case, that the Minister was full of promises but has not delivered. Of course when it comes to childcare fees, as I said from the outset, many centres including this one here has had to incur significant costs around implementing the new childcare arrangements and what we are seeing I think is that those costs are being passed on to families. It is time the government takes responsibility. This is their system, which they promised great things about and what we know is that one in four families will be worse off and childcare fees are still going up for Australian families.

JOURNALIST: Is it too late for the 50,00 people that the minister said today have yet to sign up to the new system?

RISHWORTH: Once again, the Minister when it came to those who haven’t signed up, he didn’t blame the government, he blamed families. Speaking with Claire today what she told me is that many families have had difficulty navigating the MyGov system and for those 50,000 families there is a real question about getting support. They will not get support in two weeks’ time and they will find themselves with huge out of pocket costs. It’s not good enough for the government just to blame families, it is their new system and they need to take responsibility.

JOURNALIST: The government says that millions of families will be better off compared with about 280,000 that won’t be. Is that figure not good enough?

RISHWORTH: When you are bringing in a new early education system, why would you bring in a system that makes 1 in 4 families worse off? What that says to me is that they do not value these families and we will be encouraging those families to come forward. Today, Labor will be launching a website- www.alp.org.au/childcare -for families to be able to come forward and tell their story because the government doesn’t want to hear that story. So, whilst Labor has always recognised that there will be some families who will benefit we also are giving a voice to those families that will find themselves with less support for early education services.

JOURNALIST: Does Bill Shorten have your full support?

CHAMPION: 100 per cent.

JOURNALIST: And would Anthony Albanese make a better leader?

CHAMPION: I support Bill Shorten as leader. There is no ballot, there is no contest- it is a figment of peoples fertile imagination in the media and I have been long on the record of supporting Bill, he has been a great leader of the Labor Party, he is a fighting leader of the Labor Party- did a great job in the last election and I fully believe he will be Prime Minister and have a long term Labor Government.

JOURNALIST: Claire, can you just elaborate on what you were saying about the issues you have had and how much work has gone into preparing for today?

DILLIWAY: We were made aware about 18 months ago this was coming in but the actual hands on starts; when that portal opened and our ability to start putting in the children and their families into the system- that allows us to start calculating what the costs will be for the parents which then intern impacts on whether our fees need to increase. I think it is interesting that across the board we are legislated as to how we operate, how our staff ratios are, what we need to provide and every child care centre is under the same regulations so if there is massive differences in increase across different services that would be questioned but we will only be increasing our fees to the point that we can break even and be able to continue to deliver the service that we do.

JOURNALIST: In this centre, how many of the families here would fall into that 1 in 4 category that will be worse off?

DILLIWAY: We believe about 80 per cent.

JOURNALIST: What sort of challenges do they face?

DILLIWAY: We have quite high levels of co-mobility so a combination of mental health and drug and alcohol issues with our parents. Very low educational outcomes and to a point a large number of parents with intellectual abilities that don’t quite fit the criteria for being considered disabled but don’t have the capacity to be employed. That is the cohort of clients that we specifically target. We specialise in trauma based practice, working with mental health and AOD issues.

JOURNALIST: What do you fear will happen to those families?

DILLIWAY: I think we will see down the track an increase in problems within the schools as children grow up. We will see the social problems increase, particularly in areas like this. We need to make child care- early education- the most important level of education in a child’s lives. We know from previous studies that of every dollar spent now in early childhood we will save $7 later on and that work came out of Professor Fraser Mustard. We need to prioritise early childhood as the most important time in a child’s life, which in turn will reduce the cost down the track to our schooling systems, to our legal systems, to our welfare systems and we find it very sad that they keep us in a business model rather than an education model.

ENDS

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