Canberra Report: Changes to childcare aid a concern

REVELATIONS that changes to the rules around child care assistance eligibility will adversely impact upon low to middle income families are a real concern.

Government documents suggest 1,187 families in the Hunter electorate will be worse off if the changes come into effect in July as proposed. These families are part of the 279,000 families around Australia who will be worse off.

Under the government's proposed changes, families will have to satisfy a complex set of rules to qualify for government assistance - with a work test and a means test set to hit vulnerable families the most. The work test will require families to satisfy minimum levels of 'approved activities' each fortnight which will knock thousands of low income families out of the system.

Shift workers, casual and seasonal workers, those working irregular hours, contractors and consultants or people working off a roster may struggle to fit their activity neatly into a fortnightly activity test and may therefore miss out on their child care subsidy.

This completely ignores the benefit of children regularly accessing early education services, further disadvantaging those families who are most vulnerable.

Just as important, we want every person willing and able to work to do so, it's a benefit to the economy. Flexible child care arrangements play an important role in enabling them to do so.

Properly targeting government assistance and ensuring it is not being abused is important. But we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (excuse the pun).

*** GOALS are important in life and are commonly embraced in the New Year.

Most of us have set one: for increased exercise; lowering our golf handicap; weight loss; more family time or maybe business turnover.

Goals can also be too ambitious or even too modest. If anything, recent pronouncements of a desire to grow the value of Australia's agriculture sector to $100 billion by 2030 looks underdone. ABARES has done the work for us; $100 billion represents the same growth achieved for each of the past twenty years.

Further, $100 billion would represent growth of 40 per cent while the Australian economy is predicted to grow 60 per cent to 2030.

Further still, the economies of many of our developing near-neighbours will triple; many people of growing wealth will need to be fed in those countries. I believe we can aim higher!

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