Childcare sector cheers Labor’s $4 billion policy


“What we are excited about is a commitment to early childhood, we are seeing Labor say in government it will take this sector very seriously and regards it as fundamental,” he says.

Mr Cherry said there was still problems with around the so-called activity test, which he said was designed by the government, “has long been an issue”.

The test cap the subsidy at 12 hours a week for low income families who do not meet requirements for paid work, unpaid work, training, education, volunteering or actively looking for work.

Samantha Johnson is the owner of Child’s Play childcare. Credit:Joe Armao

The largest private sector operator G8 declined to comment referring queries to the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia which said it welcomed Labor’s policy which supported a quality early
education for all children.

Childcare centre owner Samantha Johnson believes the structure of the pledge is misdirected.

“It’s grabbing headlines,” said Ms Johnstone, the owner of Child’s Play childcare centres in Tarneit and Torquay in Victoria. “These election promises are not looking at middle income families where both parents go out to work, they are the ones that need childcare.”

Generally if a family earns under that amount you are a single parent or one parent is not working at all.

Centre owner Samantha Johnson

However Ms Johnson said families earning less than $69,527 were not the main users of childcare.

“Generally if a family earns under that amount you are a single parent or one parent is not working at all,” she says.

Kidz Childcare general manager Kathy Patrick.

Kidz Childcare general manager Kathy Patrick. Credit:Adam McLean

She was also concerned about the activity test.

“That means they will only access one day a week of childcare,” she says.

Ms Johnson said her two childcare centres are used by about 500 families and she employs over 100 staff with a turnover of $4.5 million last year.

Pay increase concerns

She said a pay increase for childcare workers would be difficult even if it is funded by the government with her wage bill increasing by 15 per cent over the last five years.

You get more pay stacking shelves at a supermarket then you do caring for children.

Kathy Patrick

“How are they going to fund that?” she says. “Yes, there needs to be a pay rise but it needs to be sustainable.”

Kathy Patrick, the general manager of Kidz Childcare centres in Wollongong, Nowra, Surfside and Singleton, said a pay increase for childcare educators was much needed.

“The burnout and turnover of early childhood staff is huge,” she said. “You get more pay stacking shelves at a supermarket then you do caring for children.

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“If it is going to be funded by the government it will not affect the business and it means more can attend and if owners don’t have to outlay money this will get things happening.”

Kidz Childcare caters for around 300 families and Ms Patrick said she was also concerned by the activity test requirements which would mean children would only be covered for the equivalent of one day a week of childcare.

“It is very difficult for children to be at the centre for only one day a week because it is so long until the next time,” she said. “It takes them so long to settle in and it’s hard to make friendships. Two days is much better.”

Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne

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