Kate Ellis, Minister for Employment Participation and Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care, promised to come back and answer your questions – and she’s done exactly that. See below for answers to plenty of questions and take a look at the video too.

1. Why is it that In-Home care that is government approved requires eligibility guidelines over and above the requirements that are met to be eligible for CCB and CCR? I for example have clients that want an In-Home carer and have say two children in good health and want someone say from 10 am to 4 pm so they do not meet the eligibility criteria as set out in any form. – Louise Dunham

Hi Louise. Thanks for your question. The eligibility criteria are stringent but they need to be when we’re talking about care that is provided in someone’s home and that comes at a considerable cost to the Government. I’m keen to hear your feedback in more detail though, especially if you think the current system is excluding people who would be high quality carers. If you’d like to contact my office on 02 6277 7630 and ask for Chris, he’ll have a chat to you about your experiences and we’ll take the feedback into consideration when making future decisions around the guidelines.

2. Why is it legal for the child care centres to charge for their services on public holidays? I know the staff still need to be paid, but as someone that charges for a service I need make allowances for days I won’t be working and charge accordingly. – Poppy

I know that this is a common practice for child care centres and it can be pretty frustrating for parents. But as businesses – like any other – it is up to child care centres themselves to make commercial decisions about how they operate and how they charge for their services.

Many child care providers charge for public holidays because child care workers, like most employees, are entitled to be paid for public holidays when they would otherwise be at work. Other providers may not charge fees for public holidays but recover their public holiday operating costs by charging higher fees for the days when they are open.

3. As far as I am concerned, the term “not for profit” is misleading and used by these organisations competing in the child care industry as a marketing tool.

Those who can be bothered should Google “definition of not for profit “(Aust Govt-Aust Taxation office) to get a better understanding.

Legally they are but are they really? Not as if these organisations rely on charity to sustain themselves.

In my area, the council increased fees by $27.75 per week (being over 200% more than what Kate said it would cost) which is comparable to what the private operators charge.Why?

Because they need to make a profit.

Another person on this thread has highlighted that councils will close them down if they don’t make a profit. Why does the Govt not step in here? – Frank

Thanks for the post Frank.

Ultimately what we want are affordable, accessible and high quality child care services for the community – regardless of who is running them. Good Councils will recognise that if they want to attract people to their communities that they need to provide accessible local services and that includes child care.

In terms of price increases, I would encourage parents to call these centres out – talk to them about what comparable centres nearby are doing and question why the increases are so significant. If that doesn’t work there are options you can pursue through Fair Trading bodies. If you want to send me an email with the detail of your specific examples, we can have a look into it for you and follow up. My email is kate.ellis.mp@aph.gov.au

4. I am a kinder teacher who works in a LDC setting. I am expected to run a program on par with that at a sessional kinder, yet i get 2 hours planning per week instead of 12.5. I get 4 weeks annual leave instead of 11 weeks. I get paid at least $4 less per hour and I only receive funding for my program for the children who don’t also attend sessional kinder (they get the funding automatically). Some of the children in my class are at childcare for 50 hours a week. Yes thats right 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. How can you plan and implement a program for a class full of children (some who are there 40-50 hours a week) in only 2 hours a week!? It is ridiculous. I spend most of my time during the day setting up activities, catching up on paperwork and cleaning. I barely get any time with the children. You want to improve early childhood education?

Change the over 3′s ratio, not in 2016, NOW. I work in Victoria where the ratio is 1:15. This is not good enough, and it certainly isn’t quality care.

The new framework calls us educators? Start paying and treating us like educators. I spent 4 years at uni and i have a $24,000 HECS debt for what? To get paid barely more than the minimum wage.

Provide more training! I have done hours and hours of research on EYLF, I have attended out of hours training sessions paid for by myself. You can’t expect everyone to implement a new curriculum without providing training. Sending booklets in the mail, is not good enough.

Sorry for the rant, but I’m over it. As of next year i will no longer work in a LDC kinder – the conditions are appalling. Good luck getting degree trained staff for the new regulations that start in 2014. It just isn’t going to happen unless something changes.

If the government agreed to foot the bill for some of the wages, fees wouldn’t have to go up and centres wouldn’t feel the need to cut corners. – Helen

Wow Helen, that’s a lot of issues to raise in one post! Please don’t apologise – it’s always great to hear from those who are on the front line actually caring and educating our kids. There are a few issues you’ve raised here so I won’t attempt to answer them all in full but let me say a few things about wages. If you want to chat further, I’d really love it if you sent me an email, so we can have a more in depth conversation about these issues – rather than being confined by the length of a blog post!

Australia is lucky to have an incredibly hard working and dedicated child care workforce. And while the Australian Government does not have direct responsibility for the pay and conditions of early childhood workers, we of course want to see child care workers being valued for the critical work we do.

What we have done is introduce a National Quality Framework, which will help move our community beyond the outdated idea that child care workers are mere baby sitters and helps recognise those workers as skilled early childhood educators.

The Government cannot simply increase wages for any industry because minimum wage setting is a responsibility for industrial tribunals that are independent of the Government. What we can do is ensure that the framework for decision making in this area is fair – which is something we achieved through the abolition of Work Choices and the establishment of Fair Work Australia.

We’ve established Fair Work Australia, who you might be aware, recently handed down a decision around pay equity issues in the community sector – a decision our Government has committed $2 billion to funding the outcomes of. I’m proud that our Government has runs on the board when it comes to supporting pay increases for lower paid workers and closing the gender pay gap and importantly putting in place a structure that can deliver fai pay.

KateEllis Q&A: Fed Minister Kate Ellis answers your childcare questions

Minister for the Status of Women Kate Ellis

5. So how much are the educators/ early childhood teachers are getting for high quality work and sometimes EXPLOTATION?

An average of $ 18 -24 with early childhood teachers are getting 15% less income and only 2h per week for documentation, programming and assessment than their peers in primary school who get and additional of 8 weeks off as school holidays and pupil free days !!!! They both go to university 4 years !!! Is that fair !! What an injustice ?? Why ????

Who delivers quality educations if not the educators/teachers! How are high quality educators/teachers going to be RETAINED and how are new high quality educators/teachers going to be ATTRACTED and see early childhood education as a RESPECTED PROFESSION.

Do you think high quality education is guaranteed when children have a different educator every week for the rest of their early years? Wouldn’t that contradict research and theory in relation to the importance of secure attachments for brain development, emotional development and meeting children’s needs and interests in relations to their education and development? – An advocate for early childhood education and social justice

Thanks for your post. I’ve made a few responses here about wages and hopefully that information answers your question. I spend a lot of time in child care centres all around the country and one thing that never fails to impress me is the dedication and the passion of the staff. They’re a truly precious resource – as I said to Helen above.

6. As everyone else has stated I am all for the ELF and National framework and funding spent to help families. Why though has the government taken funding away from Limited Hours Care? This is such a valuable resource especially in regional and rural communities, parents who just need that couple of hours break for either their own sanity or for an a appointment should be counted as well. – Kim

Thanks for the question Kim. We are really proud to be delivering unprecedented levels of funding to the child care sector. We haven’t just increased the investment though, with the added dollars we have also brought about reform.

What this means for example is that whereas state governments have always had full responsibility for preschools and kindergartens, we’ve now stepped in and promised $955 million of federal government money to improve them.

In light of these massive investments, we’ve also removed some subsidies to state governments as well, like the $12.6 million we put forward to subsidise their running of neighbourhood model occasional care – something the federal Government never directly ran.

In almost all cases the states have continued to provide these services but if you’re in Victoria you’d be aware that the State Government has scrapped its funding for this program altogether – which is disappointing to everyone.

On a positive note though, last year I announced a greater allocation on in home care and occasional care places – under programs that the federal Government runs. Around 250 new Occasional Care places and 140 In Home Care places are up for allocation in Victoria.

7. I applaud the federal government for the reform, the national standards and the financial assistance they are giving to families. It is now time to review the salary levels and conditions of the committed dedicated highly skilled and qualified early childhood educators and carers, who are on the front line implementing the reform and improving the outcomes for our children.

Why do other comparable qualifications such as Cert III’s or Diploma qualified workers pay $10/hour more for a starting salary??

Compare the increase in accountability and documentation requirements over the last 15 years to the salary increases – it is far outweighed. The expectations on early childhood workers today has increased dramatically yet the pay has not.

I invite you to visit a centre that has been paying professional pay rates for 15 years, and is well resourced and well funded – come and see for your self what the potential is for our early childhood sector when we do not have the issues of staff retention, attraction and recognition. – jemma carlisle

I noticed online that lots of Mamamia readers made comments about this and I know it’s something people feel strongly about.

Early childhood teachers and educators play such an important role in children’s wellbeing and development and we want to ensure that they are supported to do what they do best – care for and educate our children.

Australia is lucky to have an incredibly hard working and dedicated child care workforce. And while the Australian Government does not have direct responsibility for the pay and conditions of early childhood workers, we of course want to see child care workers being valued for the critical work we do.

What we have done is introduce a National Quality Framework, which will help move our community beyond the outdated idea that child care workers are mere baby sitters and helps recognise those workers as skilled early childhood educators.

The Government cannot simply increase wages for any industry because minimum wage setting is a responsibility for industrial tribunals that are independent of the Government. What we can do is ensure that the framework for decision making in this area is fair – which is something we achieved through the abolition of Work Choices and the establishment of Fair Work Australia.

We’ve established Fair Work Australia, who you might be aware, recently handed down a decision around pay equity issues in the community sector – a decision our Government has committed $2 billion to funding the outcomes of.

I’m proud that our Government has runs on the board when it comes to supporting pay increases for lower paid workers and closing the gender pay gap and importantly putting in place a structure that can deliver fair pay.

8. I am in full support of these changes and feel very strongly about the importance of the early years. I also feel strongly about the quality of workers within the industry – what incentives will be provided in order to attract the RIGHT types of people to the early years? Any word on industry pay rises? I will soon be a qualified birth-8yrs teacher but there is little chance of me staying in the 0-5 years based purely on the pay difference between qualified child-care workers and teachers. – Stephanie

Hi Stephanie – you are one of many! I’ve written a few posts on the site about wages for early childhood staff, so I won’t repeat those comments again. However can I say that it is really great to see so many parents online praising early childhood educators for their hard work. So often we’re busy in our day to day lives and don’t take the time to tell the people we rely on how much we appreciate them. It’s great to see the Mama Mia community so appreciative of the great work these staff do.

9. I’m sorry but the Australian Government is offering support to Australian families; what about us, the Early Childhood Educators who make next to nothing in wages?

Did you know that a Garbage Man earns more then what we do? Did you know that most people earn under $25 an HOUR. Some cleaners earn more then that. – Carly

Hi Carly – thanks for your question. This was one issue that came up more than any other in this post! I’ve replied to Helen and Jemma in earlier posts about these issues, so I’d encourage you to have a look there. I’ve also answered this question on the video post.

10. I would like to thank Kate Ellis first for this opportunity to ask questions. I have one question – why educators in Child Care Centres must be – teachers and cleaners as well? I can’t believe that so much pressure was put on to increase educational requirements for employment of child educators and to increase child – staff ration but in each centre – they have to clean kids toilets, staff loos, etc. I don’t understand that someone who put so much effort, time and money to complete their qualifications has to have in their job description – cleaning toilet, vacuuming centre and loading dishwashers after each kids meal..is it possible to start employing kitchen hands and if not regular cleaners that outsource it to cleaning companies to come and clean centre. Also, why none of gradute lawyers clean their office windows or wash loos in their offices..or none of the primary school teachers clean and vacuum classrooms..It seems that their qualifications and jobs deserve more respect and social acceptance than pre-school teachers.. Thank you kindy. Mother of two (7 and 3yo) (just for an information – in our family – my kids go/went to child cares, my brother and I went to child care and my mum and her sister and brother went to child care overseas in 60s while my grandmother was working full-time.  – Elly

Hi Elly. You make a really good point. I think I told this story in the video but will repeat it again here for those who can’t watch online. I took part in a campaign by the union that represents early childhood carers and educators that saw me spend a day ‘in the shoes of’ a staff member on the central coast. Can I tell you – it was not easy! And you’re right, I came prepared and expected to spend a day being worn out by kids but the cleaning and other duties were a huge part of the time I spent there. Child care is a business like any other and different businesses do have different expectations of their staff and what they’re required to do.

11. Hi Kate,
Apologies of this is not the appropriate forum, but I would like to take a minute to outline a project that our community run, non profit children’s service (of which I am the treasurer) is embarking on and seeking assistance with.
We are located in a small town in far west NSW and operate a pre- school, a long day care and a mobile playgroup. Currently these services are operating out of 3 separate premises and our goal is to construct a new, multi purpose centre to house all three services. This would allow us to greatly improve the quality of care that we can offer to our children and greatly improve their early education outcomes. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this proposal with you further, as we believe it is a fantastic project which sits well in line with the vision that your government has for early childhood care and education. – Tara Bird

Thanks Tara – it sounds like a great proposal. Send me an email to kate.ellis.mp@aph.gov.au with a bit more detail about the project and we’ll see what we can do.

12. Great to see some decent discussion on childcare. With regards to the means testing of the current 50% rebate – this would certainly make it very difficult for a lot of families. The rebate is currently capped at $7500 per child. I have two children in care, with long day care and some after school/Long day care combination. After the rebate, I still have costs in excess of $18000 for the year. As a single parent, I need my job to provide for the 3 of us. The out of pocket costs are high enough now and rising every year. I certainly don’t expect the government to subsidise everything and I know a lot of people are in worse situations but it seems the harder you work, the less rewards you have. Kate – everything else is means tested, what are the government planning with regards to the rebate? – Del

Thanks for your email Del. Unfortunately when we’re this close to the upcoming Budget it’s impossible for me or any other Minister to rule in or rule out anything – much to the frustration of the media! What I can say though is that when it comes to child care affordability assistance, Labor can proudly stand by our record. We’ve massively increased funding in this area because we know that Australian families rely on this assistance to be able to return to work or study. We are also driving historic reform in partnership with the states and territories, to improve child care quality.

13. Just a question – if early childhood education is so important to get right, what is the govt doing to support parents in this who choose to stay at home? – Anonymous

Our Government wants to do what we can to support families to make their own choices about what caring arrangements work best for them and that includes help for parents who choose to care for their children at home. There is a range of Government assistance available to help stay at home parents with the cost of raising their children – including Family Tax Benefit, the Baby Bonus, the Education Tax Refund and of course the historic paid parental leave scheme that our Government introduced.

14. Kate,
Great initiatives from federal and state governments, however the article does feel slightly pro-labor, and I kind of feel that I am being set up for the “other shoe to drop”. Are you able to follow up your comment:

“No Government in the history of this nation has offered more support to Australian families for affordable child care.”

And confirm that a child care rebate means test is not on the agenda for the future? Or are you looking to do the same as per health fund rebate and remove this rebate from some Australian families? If this continues, I for one will no longer be able to afford child care and will have to stop working at a job I love that fulfils me, makes me a better person and mother. With mining tax added, health fund rebate removed and potentially this rebate removed, the financial benefit of continuing to work is reduced. – Marie

I’ve written about the child care rebate and our future intentions elsewhere Marie so I might direct you to my response to Del in an earlier post. But in terms of expanding on my comment about record levels of support – can I do so with pleasure!

We take child care and education seriously and are providing some $21.7 billion over the next four years to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of early childhood education and child care. This is more than double – in fact close to triple – what was provided in the last four years of the Howard government.

We have made significant changes to help families with the cost of using child care. We have increased the rate of the Child Care Rebate to 50 per cent of families’ out-of-pocket costs, up from 30 per cent and increased the annual cap of Child Care Rebate to $7500 per child, up from $4354.

In fact, a family earning $75 000 a year with one child in full time care spent about 13 per cent of their disposable income on child care in 2004 and in 2011 that figure had fallen to 7 per cent.

Since July 2011, families can also choose to receive their Child Care Rebate payments fortnightly, rather than waiting till the end of the year like they used to.

15. I’ve been told as of next year there is a “priority access for children who are 4 years of age the year before formal school, for minimum 15 hours per week”. How is this going to work? The Preschool my daughter (aged 4, possibly attending school in 2013) currently attends has a 3 Day (M/T/W) and 2 Day (T/F) structure, so how is that 15 hours going to fit into 2 days of 9am-3pm? At this stage it won’t impact my family, but I know many families that it will impact significantly if the Preschool hours and structure are changed. – Elizabeth

Hi Elizabeth

Our Government is providing a massive $955 million to states and territories over five years to ensure that all children in the year before full time schooling, will be able to access an early childhood education program 15 hours a week, 40 weeks years.

That’s because we know just how important the early years are and we want to make sure all children, no matter where they live and no matter what their parents earn, have access to early education.

Each state and territory signed up to these reforms and negotiated with us how much money they thought they would need to make our vision of universal preschool access a reality. For more information on what’s happening in your state, please give our office a buzz on 02 6277 7630 and let us know where you’re from and I can provide a more detailed answer.

16. It seems to me that more and more women these days ‘have’ to go back to work. Is that the reason childcare funding has tripled? I would love to see some money going towards helping women who want to stay home while their children are little. Growing up in the Howard years, I can’t recall a single friend whose mother worked outside the home. There must have been some, but I have no memory of it. I can’t remember any of my friends having gone through daycare, either. I find it a bit sad to hear that many of my friends today ‘have’ to return to work, even though they’d love a bit more time at home with their little ones. How can we work towards making this happen? I feel so blessed to be able to have the choice to work or stay home, and we can manage financially if I don’t work, but that option is rapidly disappearing for most Australian women. – Valerie

Thanks for the question Valerie. Our Government wants to do what we can to support families to make their own choices about what caring arrangements work best for them and that includes help for parents who choose to care for their children at home. There is a range of Government assistance available to help stay at home parents with the cost of raising their children – including Family Tax Benefit, the Baby Bonus, the Education Tax Refund and of course the historic paid parental leave scheme that our Government introduced.

17. This is part of my frustration as I commented before about the JET scheme. It provides for 2 years of childcare if you qualify. Yet my course is 4 years. I can’t help but get the impression that they’re happy for you to do a lower qualification and therefore be in a lower paying job – how do you get out of the cycle?

By all means have strict requirements as to what is covered and how long for, but why would you encourage short term lower value courses? Strange.

I WANT to get my degree so I can go to work. I can think of nothing worse for either of us than me sitting at home all day living on the pension. It’s not a long term proposition. Yet it feels to me like that is what they have had happen, so it’s what they’ve come to expect, so they accept it. It’s incredibly frustrating.Kris 2040

Thanks for the question Kris2040 – I hope you’re studying hard! The aim of JET Child Care Fee Assistance is to assist as many eligible parents as possible to commence study, training or employment to enter or re-enter the workforce. While assistance is generally provided for two years (or the part-time equivalent) there is flexibility built into the system and a parent can use it continuously or in portions over time depending on their circumstances. If you have reached your limit of JET assistance you can access ongoing assistance with the cost of fees through the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate. Basically, if we increased the period it’s available for then fewer parents would be able to access it.

18. I applaud the government’s child care initiatives. There have been great strides in the rebates, the assistance available for carers and improvements to the guidelines, no doubt about it.

My question for Kate is this – what are her thoughts regarding rebates for in-home child care? I am aware of rebates for in-home care for parents who do shift work and cannot use regular child care centres, but what about extending those to parents who wish to have their children cared for in the home environment rather than in a centre? – Kelly

I understand that families have different needs for early childhood education and care and that centre-based care is not suitable for all families.

And Kelly you’re right, the Government does fund in home care for parents in some circumstances – such as where the parents are shift workers, or have a child with special needs or if they live in a particularly remote part of the country and other forms of care aren’t available. And just last year I announced an expansion of those places – a 17 per cent increase across Australia.

Care provided by nannies isn’t something we usually fund because the role of a nanny is broader than just caring for the children and often involves other housekeeping tasks like doing the groceries or the ironing. This type of care would be very difficult to manage as it would be unfair for the taxpayer to pay child care assistance for these activities.

We do understand though that some parents prefer a home-style environment for the care of their children. That’s why we providing parents with access to the child care rebate and benefit for Family Day Care which provides a unique alternative to traditional centre based care by offering approved child care in a nurturing, safe home environment.

Also when it comes to those who are pledging to cover the cost of nannies, I think we should ask how much EXTRA money they’re going to allocate to do this because otherwise that could only be funded by cutting the existing child care assistance that so many families rely on.

19. I am a shift worker who works a rotating 24/7 roster. While I don’t have children yet it is happening soon. My partner works in the same job as I. There are very few options for us. We will not be eligible for a rebate I think. Why should I pay for 5 days child care when I may only use 2 per week and then have to pay someone to collect and look after y hold until I or my partner get home? If I get a nanny then I am essentially working for free so what is the point in working? I might as well be living in the 50′s. So what options are there for shiftworkers? – Louise

Hi Louise. The Government does provide financial assistance for around 9000 Australian children to access in home care. Amongst others, this assistance is designed to specifically help families who do shift work and can’t use the standard 9-5 care options. You can get some more detail here about eligibility for this assistance:

20. Is there anything the government can do to address chronic childcare shortages? I live in the inner south of Brisbane, and have also been advised of a 2+ year wait at all centres within a 10km radius. It’s crazy that there are lots of places available on the outskirts of the city, and nothing closer in. Why aren’t places regulated based on demand – inner city is always going to need more places with more professional women living close to the city, and working in the city. – Bella

That’s a great question and I know that there are parents in different parts of the country who are having trouble finding care that meets their particular needs.

That’s why we fund an unlimited number of child care places in long day care, family day care, vacation care and outside school hours care.

This means that if you’re a business and can see that there is a demand for child care that isn’t being met – for example in Bella’s part of the world – then if you set up a centre, the Government won’t limit how many places we offer financial assistance for – we’ll fund them all.

Now our figures show that, for the most part, supply is keeping up with demand across the country. In fact we’ve seen a 36 per cent growth in the number of services since we came to Government – with 500 new centres in the last year alone. That obviously makes a huge difference to being able to find care where and when you need it but of course sometimes finding places is still problematic.

I’d encourage you to have a look at the MyChild website, which is something our Government set up a few years ago – it provides information on over 14,000 child care services. You can type in your postcode or suburb and bring up a list and map of all services in the area, including what vacancies they have for different age groups and fee information.

21. Why are the processes for applying for child care benefit and child care rebate (and all other government parenting/family payments for that matter) so difficult? I fear that many families lose out on support because it is just simply so difficult to work out what you are entitled to and apply for it correctly. There has to be a better way to do it.

And as a comment – the CCB and CCR are wonderful and I’m glad I never had to pay for childcare before they existed however, childcare staff are paid terribly low wages for what they do. If we want to attract the right people to work in childcare and stay in the industry and do further training (if they want to), then the government financial support for childcare must be higher to allow the wages to go up. We all know that childcare even with the rebates is expensive so there is really no room for parents to be tapped for extra cash so staff can be paid more.

We try to make the application process as simple as possible but at the same time, these are tax payer funds we’re talking about so we need to make sure there is integrity in the process for how and who they’re paid for. But I take your point about the system being complex – that’s feedback I’ve received before and it’s something I’d like to look at how we can improve.

Firstly families need to be assessed for their eligibility for Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate. This involves an income test and a range of other checks such as the parents’ residence status, immunisation requirements and responsibility for paying child care fees. There are several options to lodge a claim. You can claim online here or, if you receive Family Tax Benefit as a fortnightly payment for your child you can call Centrelink on 136 150

There’s a guide to the process that is nice and easy to understand available at www.mychild.gov.au

22. Kate,
You say childcare is so important in the 1st 3 years of a Childs life, then what are you doing about the Childcare waiting times ( 2 years minimum in Balmain )??? – Anonymous

I know that there are parents in different parts of the country who are having trouble finding care that meets their particular needs. Where child care operators choose to set up for business is really a matter for the market – the role of Government is to make sure child care operators are supported to be able to expand or to set up new business in areas where there is demand from parents like Bella.

That’s why we fund an unlimited number of child care places in long day care, family day care, vacation care and outside school hours care.

This means that if you’re a business and can see that there is a demand for child care that isn’t being met then if you set up a centre, the Government won’t limit how many places we offer financial assistance for – we’ll fund them all.

Now our figures show that, for the most part, supply is keeping up with demand across the country. In fact we’ve seen a 36 per cent growth in the number of services since we came to Government – with 500 new centres in the last year alone.

I’d encourage you to have a look at the MyChild website, which is something our Government set up a few years ago – it provides information on over 14,000 child care services. You can type in your postcode or suburb and bring up a list and map of all services in the area, including what vacancies they have for different age groups and fee information.

23. This may seem a very petty question to some readers, but it’s one I need to ask none-the-less…

There has been talk in the media of the government means testing the 50% childcare rebate, and I would like to understand if this is a serious consideration, or simply media beat-up?

I am in a situation where I do not “need” to work as my husband is on quite a comfortable salary. I do however “choose” to work – because I enjoy my career and want to stay in touch with industry. If the suggested means testing were to be introduced, it would no longer be worthwhile for me to work at all, as my entire wage would be consumed by childcare payments for my two children. Whilst I do love my job – I’m not sure how I would feel about doing it for “free” every day.

I understand that I am currently in a very fortunate situation, however I fear that introducing a means-test to this childcare rebate could prevent some women from returning to work, effectively undoing some of the great work previously done to encourage skilled women to remain in the workforce. – Anon

Hi Anon – I’ve answered this one elsewhere as a few people were asking. Unfortunately when we’re this close to the upcoming Budget it’s impossible for me or any other Minister to rule in or rule out anything. Annoying I know but I’d be in a world of trouble if I said anything more. What I can say though is that when it comes to child care affordability assistance, Labor can proudly stand by our record. We’ve massively increased funding in this area because we know that Australian families rely on this assistance to be able to return to work or study. We are also driving historic reform in partnership with the states and territories, to improve child care quality. Stay tuned!

24. Won’t let me sign in for some reason.

While I think the reforms are good (I wouldn’t want to either have to deal with 5 babies as a carer), I think there needs to be reform in how childcare is looked at.

I appreciate that many people consider day care a choice, but for vast numbers of us, it’s a necessity to make our lives better or to be able to pay rent and buy food. I am at uni full time, I have had to drop a subject because the only place I can take her for day care is an Occasional Care place which isn’t open long day care hours. I want to do my studies full time so that I get through them in the quickest time possible and am not relying on the abundance of riches that the single parent payment is for longer than I have to. Obviously I’ll be trying to get work on top of Uni as well, I don’t have a problem with that at all.
Every single one of them has blamed the new ratios for the waiting lists.

I am also using the JET Child Care allowance, which is fantastic, but rather than covering the duration of my course, it’s set at two years assistance. My degree, to become a teacher, is four years. What am I supposed to do for the second two years? Why does it not cover the duration of the course, and make you show results to show that you’re progressing through it in order to get the allowance rather than just approving me for double the care I need for two years? I’m approved for 60 hours a week for 2 years – I could get away with 30 hours a week most of the time and spread it across the four years of my degree – why is there no way I can do that? – Krisatuni

Thanks for the question about JET. The aim of JET Child Care Fee Assistance is to assist as many eligible parents as possible to commence study, training or employment to enter or re-enter the workforce. While assistance is generally provided for two years (or the part-time equivalent) there is flexibility built into the system and a parent can use it continuously or in portions over time depending on their circumstances. If you have reached your limit of JET assistance you can access ongoing assistance with the cost of fees through the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate. Basically, if we increased the period it’s available for then fewer parents would be able to access it.

25. I am currently pregnant and looking into daycare for when I return to work. Can you explain why there is no requirement that costs be standardised? The local childcare centre charges $106 per day – and that doesn’t include food or milk! That seems extraordinarily high to me. Although the $7500 refund will assist, when paying for full time daycare – well, the cost is clearly still too high. – Anna

I know that child care can have a big impact on the family budget each week.

That’s why I’m so proud of the investments our Government has made in increasing the rate of the Child Care Rebate to 50 per cent of families’ out-of-pocket costs, up from 30 per cent and increased the annual cap of Child Care Rebate to $7500 per child, up from $4354. Plus of course you no longer have to wait and get that payment once a year – you can now chose to receive it fortnightly, which helps a lot.

We don’t mandate what the cost of child care is for each centre to charge because that’s an individual business decision and in fact – as I explain in the video – that’s actually a good thing. Child care centres charge different amounts for different levels and types of service, which means parents have more choice about the kind of care they access.

It’s up to each family to work out what the best decision is for them. Anna, I would say that it is worth you having a look around if you think that $106 isn’t worth it for the service that the centre you’re considering provides. The MyChild website has information about thousands of services across the country and there may be other options nearby that would work better for you and are available at a lower cost per day.

26. Kate,

As the chairperson of the Australian Multiple Birth Association, I would like to see InHome Care be more accessible to families with triplets or more. The current system through agencies isn’t working as well as it could, and families are finding it very difficult to get help. I’m sure most people can imagine the first six months in a family with triplets is exhausting and extended family can’t always be relied on to assist.
How can you make it easier for these families to access the InHome Care program? – Caroline

Thanks for the question Caroline. In home care is available to families which meet the eligibility criteria, which may include those families caring for three or more children who have not yet started school. These families may also be eligible to access support from the Australian Government through the CCB and CCR. You can find more information here.

27. Yes, early childhood is important.
So why does the Australian Government fund just 5% (up to one hour per week) of early intervention for children with autism when it’s own advice says these children need 20 hours per week of intensive ASD-specific early intervention (see here)?
The Government offers “inclusion support” for children with a disability but makes it difficult or impossible to use the resources it offers in early intervention, insisting instead that the “supports” are used to include a child with autism in activity that they clearly do not benefit from.
The result is that outcomes for people with autism are much worse than the average for people with a disability in education and in adult life (see here).
Government should act to improve these outcomes, not ignore these facts. – Bob Buckley

Our Inclusion and Professional Support Program gives child care services access to support and funding to support children with high support needs to attend child care. This might be in the form of a support person to provide advice or training to child care services, or funding to employ another educator to support a child with additional needs. This program has been really effective in helping service’s work towards providing a supportive, inclusive environment for all children.

Our Government has also established six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres, providing specific support for children aged zero to six years with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a long day care setting as part of our $190 million Helping Children with Autism package. I’ve seen the work of these centres first hand and know how important it is to have specialised care and attention for these children. This is a huge step forward that we’re really proud of.

28. I graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) & due to my decision to find teaching work in the city, instead of completing country service, the only job I could find was in child care.

I worked for a privately operated centre, which like most centres, was run for profit & I was paid $14 p/hr. I spent a good portion of my own money buying supplies (like paper!), used my weekend for curriculum planning & as the ‘Assistant’ was essentially hired to clean, it was pretty much solely up to me to care for sixteen 3-4y.olds (pre-kindy).
Needless to say, I lasted in that job for about a year. I would have earnt more money serving behind the counter at McDonald’s than using my four-year university education working in a childcare centre.

That was in 2004 & I’m hoping things have significantly changed for workers in child care education (who ironically, can’t even be represented by the Education Unions – child care workers fall under the ‘Hospitality & Miscellaneous Workers Union’).

My point in all of this, is that if we want to provide good quality education & care, we need to provide incentives for well educated staff to stay. Teachers in ‘regular’ kindy & pre-school do not have to deal with working the kind of hours as their long day-care counterparts. They’re given school holidays & cleaners are hired, so the assistants can actually assist the teacher. They have time for planning & assessment, & because of these benefits, most kindy & preschool teachers have been working in the same job for years.

Due to my experience working in childcare, I made the conscious descision to stay at home with my baby until he is at least two or three years-old. I understand that being a stay-at-home mum is not an option for many families, so I say again – hire childcare staff with experience & qualifications & pay them well. Because for some children, they spend the majority of their waking hours with these carers so consistency of care is a must. Therefore, don’t we want to give these staff the required incentives to stay? – Zara

Great post Zara and I answered this one in the video questions as well.

It’s really important to keep the good educators who have great experience but no formal qualifications in the sector – I think one of the real strengths of Australia’s child care sector is our devoted, hard working and experienced staff.

At the same time though, we know that the first five years of life are absolutely critical to a child’s future outcomes – so we need to make sure kids are getting access to quality early childhood education.

The Government is directing significant funds towards an initiative to recognise prior learning, to make it easier for early childhood educators to have their experience count towards a formal qualification or an upgrade of their existing qualifications.

Assessors are already being trained to be able to work with child care workers who may not have a qualification but have experience that is just as good and should be recognised as part of their work towards achieving a Certificate III, Diploma or Advanced Diploma in Children’s Services.

29. Thank you for posting this. My son has ASD and we were fortunate to get him into 2 early intervention programs which provide 5.5 hours over 2 mornings. We still pay a contribution towards these services (they are subsidised). We are also extremely lucky to have found a preschool that offers the support he needs but this is only 9 hours over 2 days. Our son is one of the lucky ones as most centres have no clue how to meet his needs, however getting him into these great programs means that I’ve had to give up work and none of these services are eligible for CCR so I’m paying more than we were for an inadequate service at another preschool with longer hours. I’m really grateful for the awesome staff who work with my son but so disappointed in our government’s refusal to provide and fund early intervention and ongoing therapies for every child with ASD. I know the NDIS is coming eventually but this is not good enough. It’s needed now. – ASD Mum

For many families finding the right care for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder can be challenging. That’s why our Government has established six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres, providing specific support for children aged zero to six years with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a long day care setting as part of our $190 million Helping Children with Autism package.

More information regarding the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres can be found on the FaHCSIA website here.

In regards to your preschool not being CCR approved – preschools can apply to become approved child care services. I would suggest raising this issue with your preschool and seeing if this is something they may be planning for into the future.

Kate Ellis is the Minister for Employment Participation and Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care.



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