Tuesday, 02 July 2019
SUBJECTS: Anniversary of unfair child care system
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT, AMANDA RISHWORTH MP: Well today marks one year since the government brought in its new child care system that has hurt many, many families. Not only did we see a completely botched system where many families did not get the subsidy they deserve, we had many educators going without money and pay as a result of the new system. And of course, 1 in 4 families were made worse off by this government with the changes to the child care system. And we now know that there is a 20 per cent reduction in at-risk and vulnerable children accessing early education. On top of this, the government has overseen a 28 per cent increase in child care fees. And now we learn they’re going to use the old robodebt mechanism of data-matching between Centrelink and the ATO to raise debts on families using the child care subsidy. There are real fears that it will be low and middle income earners, part time and casual workers, who are going to be caught up with large debts that they were not expecting. It is time the government got serious about early education and child care, and started investing in early education and child care rather than see these fees just go up and up, and families – particularly vulnerable and low income families – miss out on early education support.
JOURNALIST: Given the picture you’ve just painted now, what would you like to see changed?
RISHWORTH: Firstly I’d like to see the government seriously work with families around the subsidy system. I’d like to see the government actually look at a mechanism that will put downward pressure on fees and not stand around and just let fees go up. I want the government to listen to families about their experiences and make sure they are getting the support they need. They could start by actually putting in the budget 4 year old preschool money. As of now we don’t have long-term funding for 4 year old preschool. There’s a lot the government could do when it comes to early education, but instead a year on we’ve seen a system that’s been botched, fees going up, and low income and vulnerable families taking the brunt.
JOURNALIST: In terms of data-matching, obviously there are concerns as to the accuracy of a system like that being implemented. But wouldn’t you agree that it would be the right thing to do to be using the technology and the new tools that we have to ensure the system is as effective and functional as possible?
RISHWORTH: There are a lot of families who may not have known that they needed to change their estimation of income. Of course you always want to use the best technology available, but at the same time what we saw with robodebt and what we see with this data-matching is a very heavy handed government that is more focused on compliance than supporting families. And I think that this system as we’ve seen over the last year has been so complex and so convoluted, families have been kept in the dark so often. There’s been overpayments to families, there’s been underpayments to families, all at the governments end. So I don’t have much sympathy for the government and a lot of sympathy for families who have had to navigate themselves through this very complex system, and have been dealing with centres and MyGov for the first time, who haven’t been given clear information by the government and that needs to start happening.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair to attribute fee increases entirely to the government’s actions? Surely the National Quality Framework and new requirements for centres to have more educated people play a part in increased costs in this space?
RISHWORTH: What I’m saying is the government done nothing at all to actually rein in increasing child care costs. The previous Minister said he would name and shame centres that put their fees up more than what was required. We’ve heard not a squeak from this new Minister, not a murmur from this new Minister, about those centres that are not doing the right thing, that are putting fees up too high. There are a number of things that you can do to make sure parents are not getting hit with significant fees. Another issue is the government’s done nothing about banning non-educational incentives for child care centres to sign up new parents. There’s a lot the government can do in terms of child care fees but so far we’ve heard nothing from the Minister, no naming and shaming, no word whatsoever about any future plans to support families with the cost of childcare.