The childcare debate rages: Call for government to raise childcare rebate cap and cover in-home care

The Australian Childcare Alliance has called on the Federal Government to raise the cap on the Child Care Rebate to $8,100 and cover centre workers acting as in-home carers.

The reform blueprint also recommends that parents needing out-of-hours care, including at weekends, get an additional subsidy.

The report was sent to Childcare Minister Kate Ellis last night, according to The Australian. ACA secretary Frank Cusmano was unable to confirm to SmartCompany whether the government had received the report yet.

“The Child Care Rebate needs to go back to being indexed in the first place, as it has been affecting families and we have made that clear; families are doing it tough,” says Cusmano.

“Another of the measures we have called for is to increase the Child Care Benefit as that has not kept up with the cost of living.”

Under the ACA’s proposal, the cap would be lifted on the non-means-tested 50% Child Care Rebate to $8,100, restoring the money and indexation lost when it was cut in the 2010 federal budget to $7,778 and frozen for four years.

The Child Care Benefit, which is means-tested and goes to low-income families, would be increased by 30% for children under the age of three and by at least 15% for all other children at long-daycare centres.

The ACA, which represents 70% of the long-daycare sector, has based its plan on in-home care being an extension of the childcare centres.

However, Dr Elizabeth Hill, a lecturer in gender and work issues at the University of Sydney, told SmartCompany the issue of childcare affordability would not go away just by increasing the rebate.

“The issues in childcare are much more fundamental than just adding another $500 to the cap. There are significant issues around how early childhood education and care is funded in Australia,” she says.

“High quality early childhood education and care is never going to be cheap and you can see that in the recommendations on child-to-staff ratios. There has also been recent discussion about the need to pay childcare workers professional wages to recompense them for the professional work they do.

Hill says covering centre workers who work as in-home carers already occurs to an extent.

“The government already has a program to provide in-home care to families who, for reasons of where they live or what parents do, can’t access other care. I do know that is being accessed increasingly,” she says.

“That’s a very small minority of people and those families are eligible for other rebates.”

Hill says she would “strongly discourage” any extension of the rebate for private in-home nannies.

“I would strongly discourage this or any form of funding for private nannies. We need to use public funds to support a robust early childhood education and care sector. It’s not appropriate to use this to support individual private solutions.”

The ACA’s lobbying comes ahead of the Early Childhood Stakeholder Forum, which is being held in Melbourne today and will be attended by Childcare Minister Kate Ellis.

“The excellent thing at the moment is that there is really robust discussions going on about how to promote early childhood education and care in Australia and it has now really entered the public debate and become a political issue,” says Hill.

“Significant issues remain, particularly around affordability, and this is part of that serious and robust discussion and that is to be welcomed.

“I expect it to be on the election agenda whenever we come to that, both parties are mindful it is a hot political topic.”


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