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Make Care Fair – update on childcare reform petition and meeting with Minister Ellis and her response

This is a long overdue update on the Make Care Petition which many of you will know I launched almost two years ago to get childcare reform on the political agenda.  At the time of the petition launch we ran a survey and 86% of respondents said they would give their vote to the party with a tax-deductible policy on childcare.  I guess we’ll soon have the chance to test that theory with the election date announced.

Late last year I had the opportunity to meet with The Hon Kate Ellis  Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care.  I presented her with the petition and its comments, a summary of which you can access here.  You can also read the Minister’s response here.

What I know for sure, after spending significant days and hours over the past two years to understand the community concerns relating to child care, is that the flexible working hours ruse announced by the Government on Sunday is not going to solve the very material issues relating to child care quality, affordability and accessibility.

Flexibility is important for working parents, but it doesn’t help them find quality care for their kids.  Just as working fewer hours, or part time, will not make child care more affordable – unless it reduces your income threshold adequately to access additional family tax benefits.  And forcing employers to turn full time roles into part time roles will only make it less attractive to employ women.

I was planning to write a detailed piece today on what I’ve learnt on this issue – and what we all (mums, dads, employers and community leaders) need to know about child care… but my neighbour on the farm 5km away has just rung to say my naughty sheep dogs have just turned up there so I need to go find them… and who knows how long that will take!!

So I’ll finish working on that to post tomorrow, and in the mean time leave you with a sample of the comments that have been posted on the Make Care Fair petition website that will give you just a flavour for some of the issues we need to resolve – as a nation – to make child care fair, for all Australians.

Here are just a sample of the comments, from all over Australia:

 

What is the point in working when you come home with $50 a week after
everything is paid for?
I am the main income
earner in my family and I work shifts covering a 24 hour roster. Each shift
varies in length from 8 to 14 hours. No two weeks of the roster are the same
and there is no government supported childcare available to my child.  I can’t get a spot at childcare in my local area and
can’t afford at home care with no rebate, so why’s my option?
  We
are better off financially with my wife not working and getting FTB than if she
rejoined the workforce.  I’m currently paying ~$30k net per year on private day care.
I have been on the waiting list for cheaper govt day care since before my son
was born – he is now 26mths and I’ve yet to receive a place.
Ever tried getting childcare for more than one child at
the same place?
  We sold our fully paid for second car to pay the cost
of child care for 1 child!  I’m married to a Soldier who’s
currently deployed and I can’t go to work as he’s always away on courses or
exercise and don’t have after hours care for the kids. 
I
went through ELEVEN child care scenarios before my eldest was 6….. as a
shiftworker on a rotating roster it was simply hell trying to find suitable
ongoing childcare. I used occasional care, long daycare, family day care,
family….. It nearly destroyed my sanity. But not my partners.
I cannot afford $1000 per week for both my
children to attend day care. With crazy rental prices and the cost of childcare
we are struggling and are damned if we do or don’t. I want to work but cannot
afford to, taking my choice away. I feel trapped at home on one income
struggling and unable to assist with bringing in $$$. I have tried finding
night work but told I’m to over qualified!!!!  Childcare is a legitimate cost of
working like a tool of trade – if I don’t work the government doesn’t get my
taxes.
As a childcare worker I am concerned
at the extremely low pay rate for myself and fellow child care workers. We are
paid less than a check out operator and we are looking after the lives of
children and supporting parents in caring for a human life.
My 4 yo daughter goes to preschool. My 8 yo went
to the same preschool attached to the local public school. It used to cost $12
a day; now with these new “standards” preschool is $40 a day. Finding childcare for my son so that I can return to work
next month has been a nightmare. Despite having my name down on at least 6
different waiting lists (which is ridiculous in itself), I have only been
offered 1 place in a centre which is still being build and not yet staffed, so
I haven’t been able to meet anyone. Rather than being able to choose the best
care for my son, I am having to choose the only available. 
Living
in a small country town it is blatently obvious the lack of resources when it
comes to chidcare. We have 1 active childcare centre which boasts month long
waiting lists and if you are new to town there is almost no chance of getting a
placement for your child as children with sibling who are or have attended the
childcare centre get first preference.
  I am 5 months out from returning
to work and am finding it very difficult to find a place for my daughter. I am
going to have to take a place as soon as I find one – and pay for care I do not
need – just to ensure there is somewhere for her to go once I do return to
work. I’m 34 and I’ve been putting off having
children because I know my partner and I can’t afford one of us being off work
for an expended period of time.
Recently, a
friend of mine who was due to return to work after 12 months maternity leave
had no choice but to resign from her job due to not being able to find
appropriate childcare for her 14mth year old.

I have had my name on childcare waiting lists for 2.5 years to no avail.
It’s a strange situation that requires you to return to work after 12 months,
but there’s not enough childcare services to enable you to re-enter the
workforce. We’ve had to pay a nanny for the last 12 months, and my salary is
not enough to justify this. It doesn’t make sense that you can’t access the
childcare rebate for a nanny when you can’t get a childcare spot.
Full time
child care costs more than private school education. This is ridiculous.
I live on a cattle station & have few child care options
& even less assistance available to me from the government than my city
cousins…. don’t forget us here in the bush too – we work long hours in
challenging conditions to feed & clothe the nation.
Why
can child care not be a deductible expense? Let me tell you, childcare for my 3
children is a far more direct ‘cost of going to work’ than all of those magazine
subscriptions I claim!
After having our second child
I was diagosed with depression, and our babysitters have allowed me to return
to work part time which has helped to manage my drepression, and for that I
will always be very thank ful, There is a ‘black market’ of childcare that
exists in this country – this has to stop.
If men were the primary carers, this would not even be a debate
– it is obvious that childcare cost should be tax deductable.

Due to the cost of child care we have had to place
our house on the market as we cannot afford both a moratage and child care. YES
CHILD CARE IS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN MY MORATAGE.
I am due to return to work next month but no childcare place has
come up despite being on multiple waiting lists. I was told the wait would be
about two years, and yet they will not allow you to put the child’s name down
until it is born.
In France public school start
at 3. How wish it was the same here!
I re-iterate, a parent
knows what form of childcare is most suited to their child. I’m demanding the
parents’ right to choose, in the interests of child and family.
More women in the workforce serves to make our country more
efficient and effective. In a time when we already suffer skilled labour
shortages this would seem an obvious area to focus on.
If the Government honestly DOES understand how crucial the first
5 years of a child’s life is, then why isn’t childcare a government run
organisation such as Primary and High Schools???

As you can see, this is a complex issue that requires a complete rethink of the entire care proposition. Not just maternity leave.  Not just flexible work.  And not just employer solutions.

Your thoughts?

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"The only moment we ever really have is this one - celebrate it. Happiness isn't in the future or the past but in the awareness of the present." - Anna McPhee

Anna's words are how she lived her life. She has been an amazing inspiration, a wonderful support, a gracious mentor to me throughout my career. So many of us counted her as a girlfriend to look up to, and her legacy will live on in the many women she has inspired to live their very best life.

I will miss her.

Sending condolences to Reggie, Anna's beautiful mum Trish and adoring sisters, and all of her extended family.

Vale Anna Marsali McPhee (1970 - 2017)
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