Better start for Indigenous children
The Minister for Social Services, the Hon Scott Morrison, met with representatives from the Secretariat National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) last week to discuss the government’s new Jobs for Families Child Care Package and additional support services.
Minister Morrison confirmed the Child Care Package will be a simpler system that supports those most in need and the Child Care Safety Net would be available to Indigenous children and Indigenous focused services.
“Current programmes, like the Budget Based Funded (BBF) Programme which funds around 300 early learning services, are not well targeted, have had stagnant funding and have not been able to respond to changing needs of communities or growth in the numbers of children,” Minister Morrison said.
“Working families who access these services are not currently able to access fee subsidies through Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate.
“To address this, the Jobs for Families Child Care Package will ensure that parents using these services will have access to the new Child Care Subsidy. This will give services the opportunity to grow and support a larger number of children, particularly Indigenous children in remote communities.
“Up to 24 hours per fortnight will also be provided to children from families with incomes less than approximately $65,000 per year who do not meet the activity test to ensure continued access to early childhood learning.
“The Department of Social Services will be working with SNAICC and providers to simplify the application process for the subsidy.
“Vulnerable families will be eligible for additional fee support through the Additional Child Care Subsidy. The new system will enable many current Indigenous focused services to be viable through more flexible operating arrangements.
“Additional funding will also be available through the Community Child Care Fund, which will create a new opportunity for Indigenous services to be properly funded via grants to support their viability, provide co-contributions towards new buildings or expansions, support community engagement and integrated service delivery in their community.
“To ensure a level playing field, the Department will work with SNAICC and the sector to develop a fair grants application process that recognises the contribution Indigenous community organisations make to the child care and early learning sector.
“The Government is committed to Indigenous children having the same opportunities as other children to access child care and early learning,” Minister Morrison said.
The Productivity Commission estimated that to bring participation of Indigenous children up to their population, around 15,000 additional places are required. The Government understands that Indigenous children are under-represented in child care, and often suffer additional disadvantage.
“We are creating opportunities for more services to be established in remote communities and utilising early childhood education to break the cycle of welfare dependence and disadvantage,” Minister Morrison said.
“The current child care arrangements make it very difficult for services to be established in remote communities, where we know there is demand for services. The new system removes capped and closed funding arrangements to enable new services to open in remote communities.
“The Safety Net also includes $20 million for integrated service delivery in a number of disadvantaged Indigenous communities as recommended in the Forrest review Creating Parity. The Government will work closely with SNAICC and other key stakeholders as we develop this programme.
“The Government has also substantially increased its investment in supporting children with additional needs to participate in child care through the $409 million new Inclusion Support Programme. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will be a priority under this programme. We intend that this will further assist the numbers of Indigenous children accessing child care to increase over time.
“In addition, the government has recently expanded the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY) to an extra 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to support parents and their carers to be their child’s first teacher.
The government will continue to support BBF services over the next two years to work towards the National Quality Standard, to provide a high level of education and care for the 17,000 children attending these services.
All current BBF early learning services will receive support from the Government to transition to the new child care system and operate efficiently within it. We will work closely with SNAICC, the Department of Human Services, and the sector to ensure families are well supported through this time of change.