What do you want in a Families Package?

HerCanberra Team

Late last month, the Federal Government released the Productivity Commission’s final report on Childcare and Early Childhood Learning. The government is now one step closer to announcing their Families package — a package that will primarily focus on childcare. There are a number of recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s report that if adopted by the Government, could make a large difference to Canberra families.  

An article published on The Conversation prompted the HerCanberra team to ask: ‘what is it, exactly, that Canberra women would like to see in a Families Package?’ This is what we came up with…

“Unfreeze” the Childcare Rebate (CCR)

The rebate was “frozen” in 2013 when Federal Legislation was passed to freeze the CCR cap at $7,500 until the 2016/17 financial year—instead of increasing the rebate in line with inflation, childcare fees increase instead. Canberra families would love to see the rebate increase yearly, just as childcare fees do.

Offer a 50% rebate, without the cap!

With childcare costing up to $140 per day, the CCR cap of $7,500 per financial year does spread far enough for working families. If the average child attends daycare for more than three days a week, the rebate will run out long before the end of the financial year. “It was my child’s first year in daycare and in March, our daycare fees increased when the rebate ceased. It was a nasty surprise and since then I have always made sure I pay a little extra!” says Michelle, mum of two.

“I now have my children in care three days a week because that’s all the rebate will cover.”

Nannies and au pairs

Expand the CCR rebate to cover nannies and au pairs. The CCR does not currently cover this. Families with two or more children would find this a cost effective option and it would ease the waitlists on childcare centres. It also allows parents to arrange flexible hours of care. In their report, the Productivity Commission recommends government funding for registered nannies. The Commission has also recommended extending working holiday visas for au pairs that allow for a working period of 12 months, instead of the current arrangement of just six months.

Better pay for staff in childcare centres

Canberra mums want staff to be remunerated appropriately for the hard work they do with many who says they want their children to be cared for by staff who are well trained and well paid because it’s a big thing to leave your child in someone else’s care. Adequately paid is equally important as adequate qualifications.  

Smaller ratios in childcare centres

Between the ages of zero to three years, the staff to child ratio is 1:4. From the age of three, it jumps to 1:11. It’s hardwork caring for 11 three year olds. Surely changing the ratio to 1:8 (or something similar) would make a difference?

Paid Maternity/parental leave

Canberra families want 12 months paid parental leave. Amy, who has a three year old daughter, says “I would like acknowledgement that childcare and parental leave are two different things. You can make childcare as cheap as you like but it doesn’t mean I will go back to work earlier because I want to breastfeed the baby and form strong attachments (which is what public health advice promotes).”  

In Sweden, mums and dads are entitled to 480 days of leave per child, paid at 80 per cent of their salary that is funded by the Scandinavian Government. This approach is something Australia should aspire towards.

Superannuation for Stay-At-Home Mums

In 2013, the financial data provider company, Canstar released research that demonstrated mothers who stay at home for five years or more could lose on average $220,000 from their superannuation (based on an average salary). A government scheme that makes  contributions for Stay At Home Mums would be very welcome. Mum of six, Georgina says, “I know I can contribute, but not actually earning anything makes it hard. Perhaps the government could take a percentage of Family Tax Benefit and put it in a super fund?”

Whilst some of these suggestions may be difficult to fund, it is something our country should strive for. Hopefully a Families Package will ease the pressure and financial burden Canberra families struggle with every day. If you have something you’d like to see in the Package or share a different thought, let us know in the comments below.

To read the Productivity Commission’s Final Report on Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, visit the Productivity Commission online.

Feature image of mother and child playing courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Her Canberra

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  • Hailz

    The ratio for 2-3 year olds is 1:5 in the ACT. Better ratios for 3+ are particularly needed. Far too much pressure on educators.

    • Rbl

      I agree. I was shocked at the difference in care when my daughter turned 3 and moved up a room at childcare. With a ratio of 1:11, there was nowhere near as much individual attention for each child and definitely more pressure on educators. The transition was difficult for a number of kids at our centre.

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