WEL 1998 Election Form Guide

Child Care

One of the major achievements of the Labor government in its 13 years in office was a massive expansion of child care services. From an almost static base in 1983, it offered services to communities on the basis of need and, although there were problems in distribution, made child care a central and important issue and massively increased spending. In 1991 it extended fee relief to commercial services which set up some systemic problems as these were not always in areas of need, had fewer younger children and did not target children with special needs. As these services also had many children in care for non-work related purposes distribution problems started to appear. The ALP had also funded some services badly including Family Day care where carers were often underpaid and the government insisted they were to be considered small businesses to avoid paying more, and out of school hours care which was just inadequately funded with little fee relief.

One problem with the child care programs was that the expansion was extensive because women's groups had pushed the economic buttons to make child care a mainstream program. However, the benefits of care for children and parents socially have been somewhat lost in the process and need to be returned to the agenda. This is particularly important when looking at quality versus cost issues, as the evidence shows that it is children from disadvantaged backgrounds who need the better quality care. Yet the indications are that gap fees and other such problems mean these are the children who are most likely to be moved into cheaper services which are likely to have fewer professionally trained staff with less experience. This will create more inequalities among children, and incur future costs to the community.

1993-96 under Labor +1

Positives

Expansion of publicly funded services

Negatives

Clumsy attempts to deal with problems of having extended subsidies to any commercial centre, an open ended commitment. Too little available for after school care services, attempts to remove the operational subsidy constantly being just avoided. Set in place the sense that this was a program that needed more control eg on attendance record etc which allowed the next government to slash it.

1996-98 under the Liberal/National Party Coalition -3

Positives

Claim to have planning model, have set some limit on non-work related use. Have added some small extra funds to out of school hours care and restructured fee relief.

Negatives

Pegged the fee relief amount for three years, which has increased the gap fee. Removal of operational subsidy from community centres has created serious problems for many such centres and also put up costs. Demand that centres operate on business lines ignored needs of children and parents. Restructuring of out of school hours care, and removal of the operational subsidy which is essential for some services with poor payers. Pegged hours at 50, and tightened up attendance and other requirements which ignored the need to pay staff even when children were absent. Cut the amounts going to services even though more services were funded, so caused some crises and loss of staff and users.

Election Promises by Labor +1

Positives

Not yet available, however have promised extra $45m over three years for out of school hours care.

Negatives

Need to look at how to return this service to a community/ child oriented one not just a small business.

Election Promises by Liberal/National Party Coalition 0

Positives

A small extra amount on the fee relief cap which is not available for another 18 months. No score because this has not even replaced the cuts made by inflation alone.

Negatives

More of the same.

SCORE SO FAR Labor +2
Coalition -3

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Page created 20 September 1998; last updated 20 September 1998