Child care cost relief to benefit thousands of families

Ms Lucy Wicks MP with her daughter Molly-Joy and son Oscar Photo: Noel Fisher

Thousands of families across Robertson are set for child care cost relief as part of the Turnbull Government’s reforms to the system, according to Federal Member for Robertson, Ms Lucy Wicks.
Ms Wicks said the new reforms would offer relief for families who are finding access to child care and early learning is increasingly out of reach.
“These are the biggest reforms to child care and early learning in 40 years,” Ms Wicks 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 nearly 8,000 families in Robertson that use child care and early learning services.
“We’re targeting support to people working the most and earning the least, and it’s estimated that our reforms will encourage more than 230,000 families to return to the workforce or increase their involvement in paid employment.
The reforms come into effect from July 1, 2018, and there are three key features: the first being 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,” Ms Wicks said.
The second key feature is relief from the rebate cap.
“We will abolish the $7,500 rebate cap to ensure that 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,” Ms Wicks said.
The final step will be the 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 will 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,” Ms Wicks continued.
Ms Wicks 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,” said Ms Wicks.
“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 Robertson 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,” Ms Wicks concluded.

Media release,
Mar 24, 2017
Tim Sowden, Office of Lucy Wicks MP