Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Labor has long held concerns over the Malcolm Turnbull’s new activity test and the impact this will have on vulnerable families, and children’s access to early learning.
We are not alone with our concerns. Key industry providers and policy thinkers in the early childhood sector agree:
“…our organisations and the early childhood sector more broadly, have been concerned about the potential impact of the activity test that will apply to the new subsidy. The activity test will apply to both parents in two parent households and there are many families where one or both parents have a tenuous or irregular pattern of work, experience unemployment or illness or other barriers to employment. This may mean that children in families that cannot consistently meet the requirements of the activity test may be excluded altogether or have highly irregular access to early learning.” (Joint Submission to Senate Inquiry examining the Government’s legislation)
“Currently all children can access two full days per week (up to 24 hours) of subsidised education and care regardless of whether their family meets an activity test. The proposed changes remove this universal access to education and care and take Australia backwards in the early (and middle) childhood policy arena.”
“This legislation imposes a significantly stricter eligibility requirement to access government subsidies to assist with the cost of early learning and care. This is the first time parents will be faced with the reality that if they fail to meet the new activity test, they get no childcare subsidy. Even more concerning is the fact that their eligibility for subsidy can suddenly be cut altogether if they fail to meet the activity test due to unforeseen circumstances in any given fortnight. This is very concerning for many families juggling the general costs of the household budget with the costs of early learning and care.”
“Provide a minimum of two full days of subsidised early childhood education and care per week for all families, regardless of activity. Activity requirements should apply only to families seeking care for more than two days per week.”
“I think what a lot of families are going to be surprised by when this new package is implemented is the fact that the activity test applies to both parents, all the time. “The children we’re trying to keep in the system are the vulnerable and disadvantaged children who really benefit from access to quality programs. What we’d like is for the Government to guarantee children access to at least two days a week to a quality program regardless of parental activity.”
“In our many discussions with the Government over the past year we believed the Minister understood the importance of the international and local evidence on this point but he has failed to act. This leaves up to 100,000 children from low-income families without the support they need…it is disappointing that modest changes which would have protected children from very low income families have been ignored.”
“This will be devastating to over 30,000 families who currently receive some level of subsidy support in this circumstance.”
“We certainly think there could be many thousands of families that will be worse off under this package. And we’re very concerned about the notion of children being impacted because of effectively the actions or inactions of their parents. I think one of our concerns all along with the Government’s approach to this issue is that it sees early learning and care as fundamentally a workforce participation issue for parents as opposed to how we see it as a great benefit for children.”
“It seems to us to be an overly bureaucratic measure that’s not going to work in the best interest of children. The test actually takes the focus away from the importance of quality services for children and instead it concentrates on how they’ll be qualified or disqualified from care depending on their parents’ or guardians’ circumstances. We would rather have an activity test focused on the needs of the child.”
“May impact on national efforts to ensure universal access to quality early childhood education. Reducing the minimum hours of subsidised care for vulnerable and disadvantaged children is inconsistent with universal access commitments.”
Worryingly, this is not the full list of stakeholders who have concerns about the negative impact of Malcolm Turnbull’s unfair child care package on the most vulnerable families and children.
Shamefully, the Liberals would rather play politics, pitting families against each other and vilifying ‘free loaders’ – as if some children are more deserving of early education than others.
With less than three weeks left until the new child care regime takes effect, time is running out for the 279,000 families who will be worse off under Malcolm Turnbull’s changes.