Rules push up child­care costs: re­port

North West Telegraph - - News - Phoebe Wearne

Bil­lions of dol­lars in tax­payer­funded sub­si­dies are fail­ing to ease pres­sure on work­ing fam­i­lies, ac­cord­ing to a re­port claim­ing child­care is less af­ford­able than ever.

The Cen­tre for In­de­pen­dent Stud­ies, a con­ser­va­tive think tank, says in a re­port set to be re­leased last week, child­care fees are in­creas­ing “well above” in­fla­tion and par­ents’ out-of-pocket costs have risen al­most 50 per cent in six years.

De­spite the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s new Child Care Sub­sidy promis­ing to save a typ­i­cal WA family $1089 a year per child in care, the re­port ar­gues child­care fees are be­ing in­creased by cen­tres as they scramble to meet ris­ing costs.

Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by re­port au­thor Eu­ge­nie Joseph, fees for long day care — the type most com­monly used by Aus­tralian fam­i­lies — were 11 per cent higher last year be­cause of rules around staff ra­tios and qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“The staff-to-child ra­tios and qual­i­fi­ca­tion rules are driv­ing up the op­er­at­ing costs of child­care ser­vices, even though in­creas­ing the cost of child care is in­con­sis­tent with the aim of en­cour­ag­ing women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the work­force,” Ms Joseph said.

“By driv­ing up the cost of child care, qual­ity reg­u­la­tions un­der­mine the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Child Care Sub­sidy.”

The re­port crit­i­cises the “un­even and frag­mented” sup­ply of child­care ser­vices na­tion­ally, with over­sup­ply in some ar­eas but short­ages else­where mean long wait­ing lists.

While many par­ents have pushed for qual­ity early learn­ing, the re­port warns that the Fed­eral Govern­ment faces an “in­evitable” trade-off be­tween reg­u­lated qual­ity and af­ford­abil­ity as it moves to in­crease fe­male work­force par­tic­i­pa­tion.

It calls for Fed­eral and State gov­ern­ments to ex­am­ine whether staffing and qual­i­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ments could be cut to make child­care more af­ford­able.

“Real­is­ti­cally, par­ents can­not af­ford to pay more,” Ms Joseph said.

“If Aus­tralians truly want af­ford­able child­care, a more flex­i­ble ap­proach to reg­u­la­tion is needed.”

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