The Gillard Government will invest more than $25 billion over four years to continue building a more affordable, flexible and high quality child care sector, helping more Australian parents return to work and ensuring more children are school-ready.
Minister for Early Childhood Peter Garrett said the Gillard Government has tripled the investment the previous government made in early childhood education and care.
“We know that one of the smartest investments we can make to help Australian families is to improve access to high quality, affordable child care, putting our young children on a great pathway towards school,” Mr Garrett said.
“In this Budget, the Gillard Government is continuing to build on our National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care.
“We are delivering universal access to preschool and kindergarten, to complement the reforms for school aged children in our National Plan for School Improvement.”
The Budget provides:
- An investment of $22.1 billion over the next four years in direct child care assistance to families through the Child Care Rebate and Child Care Benefit.
- $468 million in the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance to help parents on income support - mostly single parents – with child care assistance while they are studying or training to get the skills they need to find a job.
- $300 million over two years to provide grants to help child care centres to attract and retain a qualified workforce through higher wages and improve the quality of child care for children, through the Early Years Quality Fund.
- $12.9 million package to increase the flexibility and accessibility of child care for modern families including Family Day Care, Outside School Hours Care and Long Day Care.
- $660.1 million through a new National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education to facilitate the commitment by all Governments to provide Universal Access to early childhood education.
In order to ensure the ongoing sustainability of this significant investment, the Government is continuing the indexation pause of the child care rebate cap for a further three years from 2014-15.
This will deliver a saving of $105.8 million over the forward estimates, while no families will see a reduction in payments as a result of this decision.
Early Childhood and Child Care Minister Kate Ellis said the Government‘s record investment shows Labor’s continued commitment to improve access to quality, affordable child care for Australian families.
“The record investment in this Budget for child care will support around 1.4 million children to access child care each year by 2016-17,” Ms Ellis said.
“We want more parents to have the opportunity to return to work knowing their kids in care are safe and happy, and supported by qualified early childhood professionals.”
Eligible long day care centres can apply for grants to promote productivity and increase wages for employees with a Certificate III by $3 per hour from 1 July. There will also be proportional increases for staff across the existing classification scale.
A series of flexibility trials in partnership with industry, business and child care operators to provide more flexible child care hours will also take place in more than 50 sites across the country. The trials include after hours family day care for shift workers, extended hours long day care and improved access to responsive out of school hours care.
The Australian Government is also supporting a $1.3 million Child Care Flexibility Fund to help community organisations and interested stakeholders provide more flexible child care to better meet the needs of Australian families.
“We know that for many families, a little bit of flexibility would go a long way in helping juggle work and child care,” Ms Ellis said.
“We understand there has been a significant shift in the workforce in the last decade with a 25 per cent increase in the number of women in employment, creating extra demand for flexible child care options.”
Ms Ellis said the Gillard Government has a proud record of improving access to quality child care for Australian families.
“We increased the Child Care Rebate from 30 per cent where it sat under the Coalition, to 50 per cent of out of pocket costs, making child care more affordable for Australian families,” she said.
“We also increased the cap from $4,354 per child per year to $7,500 per child per year.
“The steps this Government has taken to make child care more affordable has seen the number of children in child care grow by more than 20 per cent since 2007.”
“This year, there is a choice – between the Gillard Government investing record amounts of funding in child care, or Tony Abbott’s strategy of cutting services to the bone.
“This budget keeps our economy strong, makes the smart investments for our future and ensures every Australian gets a fair go.
“We are investing for the future, putting jobs and economic growth first and protecting the important services that Australians rely on.”