Thousands of families across the Northern Territory are set for child care cost relief and their children will benefit from more early learning opportunities as part of the Coalition Government’s reforms to the system that passed Parliament on Thursday night.
Country Liberals Senator for the Northern Territory, Nigel Scullion, said the new reforms would offer relief for families who were finding fees and expenses put access to child care and early learning increasingly out of reach.
“These are the biggest reforms to child care and early learning in 40 years,” Senator Scullion said.
“We know the cost pressures that families face so we’ve taken action to overhaul a broken system to deliver more affordable, accessible and flexible services for families and children.
“Our changes will inject $1.6 billion of additional investment into the system – with around one million families across the country to be better off – including many of the 8740 families in the NT who use child care and early learning services.
“We’re targeting support to people working the most and earning the least and it’s estimated our reforms will encourage more than 230,000 families to return to the workforce or increase their involvement in paid employment.
“Our approach stands in stark contrast to the Labor Party which doesn’t have a child care policy, tried to block our reforms every step of the way and stood against the additional investment in our reforms and the relief that will mean for families.”
The reforms come into effect from 1 July 2018 and there are three key features:
- Better support for people working the most and earning the least– The changes simplify the current complicated rebate system by replacing payments with a single, means-tested Child Care Subsidy that boosts the current flat 50 per cent rebate rate to 85 per cent for hardworking families earning up to $65,710 and then tapers down to 20 per cent for families earning more than $250,000 and cuts out for families earning more than $350,000. Our reforms also introduce a three-step activity test with an entry point of four hours a week that gives families eligibility for 18 hours a week of subsidised child care. This will align hours of care with the combined amount of work, training, study, volunteering or other recognised activity being undertaken by parents.
- Relief from the rebate cap– We will abolish the $7,500 rebate cap to ensure families on incomes of $185,710 or less aren’t limited by a cap on the amount of child care they can access and the cap will be increased to $10,000 for families earning more than $185,710, overall offering relief to the approximately 100,000 families that hit the current $7,500 rebate cap.
- Downward pressure on incessant fee increases– Our reforms introduce an ‘hourly rate cap’ on the subsidies the Government will pay that will set a benchmark price so Australians have a reference point to hold providers accountable and from which they can expect prices shouldn’t dramatically exceed. We will also slash red tape so services can be more flexible in the hours they deliver instead of the current system where families who routinely need and use only four, six or eight hours of care, are charged for 10 or 12 hours.
Senator Scullion said the reforms were designed with regional and rural early childhood education and care services and their families in mind.
“Many services in regional and rural areas are part of the old ‘Budget Based Funded’ system that has capped funding and is closed to new services but under our reforms they will also have access to hundreds of millions of dollars in additional support and a funding guarantee,” Senator Scullion said.
“Our reforms also include measures to encourage workforce participation, stronger compliance powers to further stamp out rorting, more flexibility for the hours child care centres open and additional investment for services to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with additional needs such as disability.
“I look forward to discussing the reforms with families across the Territory and to seeing the benefits flow through to help household budgets, boost early learning opportunities and give families the opportunity to work or work more.”
In coming weeks the Government will begin communicating the changes to families and services, and a calculator will be available for families to determine how the reforms will benefit them.
For further information on the reforms, visit https://www.education.gov.au/jobsforfamilies