Tuesday, 19 November 2013

What does the Productivity Commission inquiry into childcare mean?

The complicated Australian  system of government means that responsibility for childcare is divided between the federal and state governments.  This means that the states have responsibility for regulation of childcare, while the while the Commonwealth has the major funding role.  And the old adage rules: 'who holds the purse strings holds the power.'

The Prime Minister has announced the terms of reference for a Productivity Commission inquiry into Early Childhood services. This will impact on families, childcare workers, agencies, services and taxpayers.  He announced that the inquiry will focus on developing a system that that is flexible,results in increased workplace participation and ensures that children's developmental and educational needs are met. No commitment to increased funding has been made at this stage.

The press release announcing the inquiry, stated that 'The market for child care and early childhood learning services is large, diverse and growing, and it touches the lives of practically every family in Australia. Almost all children in Australia participate in some form of child care or early learning service at some point in the years before starting school. '  Many people, particularly women, say that they are 'unable to work because they are unable to find suitable and/or affordable childcare.'  This includes the limited hours of most services which were set up to meet the needs of people working 9-5, near home, rather than working shifts or extended hours or with long travel times. Concern was also expressed about the needs of vulnerable and disabled children, and those who are entering school with significant learning and developmental delays.  

Home based childcare provides families some flexibility in working arrangements and our nannies are well equipped to help children with developmental delays and disabilities, but we also need to ensure our workers do not work excessively long hours and are adequately paid. 

I have long believed that the extension of the childcare rebate to families in this sector would help with the costs and be equitable with childcare centres.  Another option, which the Productivity Commission will consider is the New Zealand model where home-based care is subsidised for low and middle income families when it is provided by a registered carer who is supported by an educational service.

Parents, nannies and other interested parties need to keep informed about these issues, think about them and be prepared to act to ensure we get a system that meets the government's objective of 'a system that is not only affordable, but ensures people can work flexible hours whilst knowing that their children are receiving high quality child care.'

Articles from The Age: Prime Minister's Announcement 17/11/2013
                                       Support for Nannies 18/11/2013
                                       Childcare centres vs nannies 19/11/2013

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