Australia’s minister for early education says she can’t just snap her fingers to create a universal childcare system, but her government does seek to relieve costs on families.
The maximum childcare subsidy rate was lifted to 90 per cent on July 1, with 1.2 million families expected to benefit from the changes.
Asked if the government wanted to make childcare similar to free state education, Early Childhood Education Minister Anne Aly said current reviews of the sector would “chart a path” to achieving a world-class system.
“To get to a place where we are delivering universal early childhood education and care that’s affordable, accessible and flexible for every child is going to be an undertaking,” she told ABC Radio on Monday.
“It’s not something that I can just click my fingers and happen overnight.”
Concerns have been raised that the increased subsidy will lead to costs being passed on to parents by childcare centres, through raising fees above inflation.
Ms Aly said a six to eight per cent hike in fees was in line with inflation.
“We’re actually confident that – even with modest increases in the fees that the centres are charging, as they normally increase their fees around this time of year – the childcare subsidy will make a difference,” she said.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned the sector it is monitoring price hikes.
An interim report on the watchdog’s inquiry into childcare prices was handed to the government on Friday, with the full report due by December.
Opposition spokeswoman Angie Bell said the system needed to offer more flexibility and choice for families.
“The current system is not accessible for many shift workers including health care, hospitality and fly-in fly-out workers,” she told AAP.
“We also want to see increased access for families living in regional, rural and remote Australia who have little-to-no access.”
(Australian Associated Press)