parents

Changes in Childcare? What you need to know.

Okay, straight up, I have used Childcare services, on and off, for the past 13 years.

For one reason and one reason only.

I work.

Bern with her sons who were in and out of childcare for years.

So, my first instinct – when I heard about the proposed new childcare policy that the Abbott Government wants to implement, the one where they not only intend to limit available places to parents who don’t work but also stop the subsidisation – was to agree.

To say that, hell yes, if you aren’t at work, then you shouldn’t be given priority over working parents and yes, if you are lucky enough to snare a spot, you most definitely SHOULD pay full price for it.

But then I realised that an inflammatory issue was once again being used as a tool to divide and conquer us not only as parents, but as a nation.

And it’s time for that shit to stop.

I’m not saying that what I’m about to say here will make you all happy, in fact, I’m fairly confident that it won’t, but it is my hope that you will at least give it some consideration. That you, like I have done, will try and see it from the other person’s perspective.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that stay at home parents shouldn’t be able to access childcare, they most certainly should. I do believe however, that as it stands, the childcare system (and the accessibility and affordability of it) is fundamentally flawed.

And it has been for a very long time.

So let’s lay out three simple problems:

1. Accessibility

Childcare allocation, as dictated by the Australian Government and the Department of Education, should be adhered to by Child Care Centres as follows:

• First Priority: a child at risk of serious abuse or neglect
• Second Priority: a child of a single parent who satisfies, or of parents who both satisfy, the work/training/study test under Section 14 of the ‘A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999’
• Third Priority: any other child.

Within these main categories priority should also be given to the following children:
• Children in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
• Children in families which include a disabled person
• Children in families which include an individual whose adjusted taxable income does not exceed the lower income threshold of $42,997 for 2014-2015, or who or whose partner are on income support
• Children in families from a non-English speaking background
• Children in socially isolated families
• Children of single parents.

Seems fair, yes?

Are stay at home mums really clogging the system?

Currently parents who do not work or study, are able to access 24 hours of subsidised care for their child each week.

Childcare Minister Sussan Ley said one of the reasons working parents struggle to find a childcare place for their baby or toddler is because stay-at-home mothers are clogging the system.

Solution?

Rather than taking a scalpel to the whole arrangement, why not reduce the available subsidized hours for stay at home parents, to 8 hours a week? If parents who aren’t working, studying or actively looking for work WANT to put their children into care after their 8 hours – then, they pay full price, thus reducing the governments costs by two thirds.

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What needs to be made clear is this: A working or studying parent requires childcare out of necessity, not want. That is the main difference and the reason the priority system needs to be adhered to.

2. Affordability

If I was to honestly sit down and calculate (and admit to myself) how much I didn’t make after I deducted my childcare fees for the last fourteen years, I’m not entirely sure my partner and I could look one another in the eye.

Often I worked because I wanted to stay relevant and not lose my foothold in my career.

Plus, I’m the first to admit, I like working.

I like interacting with adults. I think it makes me a better adult and in turn, a better mother. (But that’s just me and I pass no judgement if that’s not your bag. I’d appreciate if you could to the same).

One thing all parents can agree on though is that childcare is insanely expensive.

Let’s put it into perspective.

If you were to send your child to a private daycare centre in Melbourne for 5 days a week, for an entire year, it would be more expensive than sending your child to Medical School. Yep, it costs more to teach your 3 year old to count to 16 and make mud pies than it does to become an anesthetist.

Flawed system? You betcha.

Solution?

Make fees an outright tax deduction. If you work and you are required to pay child care fees, then these should be full tax deductions and reduce your taxable income, therefore reducing the tax payable.

This would make returning to work more financially viable.

Does it really cost more to have these little guys in childcare than for an adult to attend Medical School?

3. Compensation

The dedicated child care teachers we trust to love, care and mould our most precious cargo, deserve compensation.

Currently, a childcare worker is paid less per hour than a teenage checkout chick.

It is the most underpaid, overworked and undervalued vocation in the country and is another fundamental flaw of the system.

Solution?

Pay Childcare workers more.

Childcare centres are one of the most profitable business’ in Australia. The government needs to enforce higher, appropriate wages.

The issue here for me is that the debate about childcare needs to opened up, not locked down.

Believe me, I believe more in the policy than the party. And both parties have had ample chance to fix the childcare system over the past decade and both have done nothing more than throw a Band-Aid at a gaping wound.

So, let’s open the conversation – if you have a solution, can you share it? But can I ask you one thing – instead of making this an “us” Vs. “them” discussion, can we try and find a solution?

Because until we find it, we still won’t have a child care system that is fair, that works and that will sustain itself.

What do you think about the proposals? Should access to child care be cut to parents who don’t work? What’s your solution? 

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