Almost 3000 Illawarra families will be worse off come July 2 if the Federal Government’s new child care package sees the light of day.
That’s what Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, Amanda Rishworth told the assembled media at the Boombalee Kidz pre school and long day care centre in Wollongong on Monday.
“What we know is that the government's new child care packages coming in from 1st of July will leave one in five families in the Illawarra worse off. That means they will get less access to early education services and less access to high quality early learning,” Ms Rishworth said.
“What’s worse is that the majority of these families will be in the two lowest income brackets – so we will actually have lower income families being worse off as a result of this government's changes.”
She said if the government was serious about preschool and early learning “they would give a long term commitment to early learning in this country by locking in universal funding for four-year old preschool”.
We’ve got a few families here who said if they don’t qualify for a subsidy, they are going to have to drop their days at care. Children, educators and centres will all suffer if this happens.Sarah Larkin
Ms Rishworth said instead the Turnbull Government’s new child care and early learning reforms included an activity test “where both parents have to show they are working in order to get the maximum amount of subsidy.”
But Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham said the changes “re-targets subsidies towards people working the most and to people earning the least and injects an extra $2.5 billion into the system”.
Minister Birmingham said families could calculate their subsidies on the government’s recently relaunched online estimator.
But Ms Rishworth said the new system was extremely complex and will be difficult for many families to understand.
This view was supported by Boombalee educator Sarah Larkin.
“To be honest I’ve been doing a lot of training in all the changes that are going to be implemented and I’m very confused myself, so I can only imagine that families themselves are getting confused,” Mrs Larkin said.
“I am a parent as well as an educator. Reading into it I just feel there is not enough information provided to families, educators and directors.
“We’ve got a few families here who said if they don’t qualify for a subsidy, they are going to have to drop their days at care. Children, educators and centres will all suffer if this happens.”
Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones said the prime minister regarded places like Boomnalee as a babysitting service.
“We [Labor] know it is not babysitting. We know it is early childhood education,” Mr Jones said.
“If you think of it as babysitting you say ‘oh well we are just punishing the parents’.
“If you think of it as early childhood education, you know you are punishing the kids when you make the changes that are impacting on families like those and kids like those at this centre here today.
“We want to be investing in our kids, not punishing them,”