PMB – Family Day Care
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (13:13): I am pleased to be able to speak on this PMB because it is an issue I have followed quite closely. In recent months family day care providers have contacted my office about their campaign. Families need family day care. I invited a number of those providers to attend a forum in Bundaberg, at the northern end of my electorate, where they raised their concerns directly with the Assistant Minister for Education, Susan Ley. I thank the assistant minister for making herself available and for her genuine engagement. In Hinkler, as at June 2013, 6,780 children from 4,730 families attend 83 childcare services of all types. On average, Hinkler families paid $6.15 per hour per child, compared to $6.50 in Queensland and $7.35 nationally. One Hinkler family day care provider says it has calculated that the changes we are making to the Community Support Program will increase fees by $5 per week per child. But it is important to note that CSP is not a fee assistance program and is not paid direct to the educator or parents. CSP is an operational payment paid direct to family day care services to assist them in establishing or maintaining services in areas where they might otherwise be unviable or unable to meet the requirements of the community, particularly in disadvantaged, regional and remote areas.
In 2006 the eligibility criteria were relaxed for family day care providers to help grow the then fledgling sector. Strict criteria remained in place for all other childcare service types. Family day care is now a viable sector in metropolitan areas. In our major cities there has been a 74 per cent increase in new services. By contrast, the number of services operating in regional and remote areas has declined since 2011.
So we are changing the eligibility criteria from 1 July next year so that CSP criteria for family day care is better targeted towards regional, remote and disadvantaged communities where there is unmet demand or market failure. Total operation support payments through the CSP to family day care services will be capped at $250,000 per financial year to ensure the funding is distributed more equitably. The changes will also bring support for family day care services into line with other types of child care such as long day care and outside school hours care.
A report in 2012 by the Australian National Audit Office found that family day care was receiving 71 per cent of the total CSP budget, despite only caring for about 10 per cent of the children. The report highlighted the growing problem with CSP and recommended its eligibility guidelines be reviewed. Labor ignored the report, allowing the CSP budget to blow out by another $200 million over three years. They favoured inequity, debt and financial mismanagement over rocking the boat in the lead-up to an election.
We will not take our eyes off the ball. At the weekend it was revealed that the Abbott government’s new childcare compliance task force had taken action against 24 childcare services since July, issuing 256 fines totalling $1.74 million. Alarmingly, family day care made up over 90 per cent of offenders. About half of the 22 non-compliant family day care coordination services were fined for making excessive claims for payments on behalf of children in their care, often unbeknown to parents.
Parents in my electorate have joined the Families Need Family Day Care campaign, but I question whether they have all the facts about the CSP program. The flyer they have signed says parents face uncertainty around increasing fees, service closures and even their capacity to remain in the workforce. As I said previously, CSP is not a fee assistance program. Parents using approved care can still apply for the child care benefit, or CCB, and child care rebate to assist with the costs of care. Parents using approved family day care receive a rate of assistance 33.3 per cent higher then parents using long day care. The maximum rate of CCB for one child in family day care is $5.32 per hour, compared to CCB of $3.99 per hour for other care. The coalition government is providing $28.5 billion over four years to assist families with childcare costs.
As a father of three, I understand how important family day care is to the Hinkler community. As someone who has three children, I have used all types of child care services, including family day care with people like Kim Wheat who had children of a similar age. My children have grown up in some of those environments and it was fantastic for them. Quality services that operate outside traditional hours are vital to families with working parents, particularly those who do shift work. That is why the government has designed a business development package to assist family day care providers to make the transition. The package includes access to a range of business workshops and webinars as well as professional development, support and resources.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Andrews ): As there are no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.