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Free childcare urged for low-income families

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Childcare in Australia should be free or inexpensive for low-income families, a report from a government agency has said.
Childcare in Australia

A report from the Productivity Commission has recommended the Federal Government make childcare free “or very low cost” for low-income families.

The Productivity Commission is an independent agency that provides advice on matters affecting the welfare of Australians.

It proposed several measures to make childcare more accessible and effective.

Childcare in Australia

There are around 14,000 childcare centres nationwide, where children learn basic development skills before they start school.

A Federal Government subsidy covers some childcare costs for families. The amount each family receives depends on factors such as income and the number of children per family.

Earlier this year, the Government commissioned an inquiry into the sector by the Productivity Commission.

Free childcare

The Government subsidises 90% of childcare costs for families with an annual income of less than $80,000, who have one child in childcare.

The report suggests lifting this to 100% to reduce barriers to accessing childcare and support increased work hours among single parents and secondary earners.

It also suggested all families be given access to up to 30 hours (or three days) of subsidised care per week. This would remove current conditions limiting access to the subsidy.

The report found existing measures to fund childcare are failing to reach a broad scope of children, including those with a disability or from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Associate Commissioner Deborah Brennan said “vulnerable and disadvantaged children benefit the most from quality early childhood education and care, but they are currently the least likely to attend”.

The report proposed increasing staff wages and hours to support these children.

Childcare commission

The report suggested the Government establish a national early childhood education and care commission.

It would be an independent body, tasked with a goal of making childcare accessible to all Australians.

It would also be responsible for ensuring funding is allocated to the greatest areas of need.

Next steps for reform

The report’s recommendations will be put to the childcare sector and the broader community for a round of public feedback on its suggested policies.

The Commission said it will also “hear directly from children” to learn about their experiences in childcare.

“Their views, alongside submissions and public hearings, will inform the Commission’s final report.”

The Government will receive that report next year.

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