Sydney mum Amrita thought she’d done all the right things.
The local child care centre where she sends her pre-schooler had told her to update her details with Centrelink in time for the new Child Care Subsidy, which was due to come into effect on July, 2. Like all families with children in child care, Amrita knew she had to update her income and usage details to ensure the rebate would be applied properly.
But, according to a frustrated Amrita, it seems there was no point in doing so.
“I got an email from the child care centre saying that I had to pay the full amount upfront, and that the rebate would be backdated. How do I even know that it will happen? They said there’s a glitch in the system, so now I have to pay $368 upfront. I can’t afford this. When I updated my details they assessed I would get 85 percent of a rebate, and now, nothing,” she told Mamamia.
Questioning why there was a push from the government for family details to be updated so urgently when the software and administrative capabilities were not in place, it is no comfort to Amrita that she is not alone in her experience. Since July, 2, technical difficulties in the application of the rebate have plagued child care centres around Australia. Increasingly, parents are slamming the rollout, expressing their frustration as delays in the overloaded system mean they are being asked to pay full fees with no rebate applied.
The situation has also proved challenging for child care centres who are dealing with irate parents, but cannot access the government software, which would enable them to more accurately bill parents.
Alys Gagnon, Executive Director at The Parenthood, an Australian advocacy group, told Mamamia the situation was grossly unfair on families:
“We are a week and a half into the new Childcare Subsidy and it’s fair to say that there is still an enormous amount of confusion amongst parents about what they are actually going to be required to pay and how much subsidy they will receive for childcare fees.
“This is extremely frustrating for mums and dads, especially when coupled with the fact that potentially thousands of families may face a prolonged delay in accessing the subsidy through no fault of their own but because the Government’s IT systems are not able to bear the load.
“Given that childcare fees are hitting $150 or more per day, asking parents to pay the full fee is an incredible financial burden. While offering back pay goes part of the way to alleviating that burden, many families will struggle to find the money upfront. It was entirely predictable that there would be confusion and delay around the transition and asking families to carry the burden of that is deeply unfair.