Media Release by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

Abbott Government delivers child care safety net for disadvantaged families

Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Scott Morrison, today announced the Abbott Government will provide additional funding of $327.7 million over four years from 2015-16 in next week’s Budget to provide targeted support to disadvantaged or vulnerable families through a new Child Care Safety Net.

The Child Care Safety Net is the next element of the government’s ‘Jobs for Families’ package that will give disadvantaged and vulnerable families targeted child care support with greater choice.

The Abbott Government recognises that, in addition to mainstream Child Care Subsidy, additional support is necessary for disadvantaged or vulnerable children, whether they be children with disabilities, children at risk of abuse, children from families on incomes under $60,000 or families facing financial risk.

Importantly, getting children into early childhood learning improves a family’s ability to break a cycle of poverty and intergenerational welfare dependence. This is one of the most effective early intervention strategies available.

Existing programmes that support disadvantaged and vulnerable families are complex, inefficient, poorly targeted and open to abuse, in particular the Community Support Programme, Special Child Care Benefit, and Jobs Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance.

These schemes will be wound down, along with the current Budget Based Funding programmes. They will be replaced by the new Child Care Safety Net which will comprise a more integrated and targeted set of funding programmes.

In addition to a new mainstream Child Care Subsidy that focuses primarily on getting families into work, there will be three new programmes – Inclusion Support Programme, Community Child Care Fund and Additional Child Care Subsidy. These programmes will combine new funding with the ongoing funding that was provided for the previous programmes that will be rolled into these new initiatives.

The new $409 million Inclusion Support Programme, beginning in July 2016, will provide more funding for services to get the necessary skilled staff and equipment to support children with special needs. This will include a significant increase in the inclusion support subsidy, meaning centre-based services will no longer have to pay a ‘gap fee’ to engage a Certificate III qualified staff member to assist with children with additional needs. Family day care providers will also be assisted to include children with additional needs.

The programme will ensure that families with children who have special needs will have more access to child care services in mainstream facilities. The programme will provide support to an estimated 11,300 services.

The new programme will pick up responsibilities from the current Inclusion Professional Support programme.

Assistance under the Additional Child Care Subsidy, worth $156 million commencing in July 2017, will minimise barriers to early learning and workforce participation. It will offer:

  • a top up subsidy for child care to assist children at risk of serious abuse or neglect irrespective of family income or activity tests, initially for 6 weeks and then in blocks for 13 weeks as assessed,
  • short term financial support for families experiencing temporary financial hardship over an initial 6 weeks and then up to an additional 7 weeks, and
  • a higher capped subsidy for families transitioning from income support to work and undertaking study or training.

The Additional Child Care Subsidy will supplement the mainstream Child Care Subsidy. Together these two subsidies will pick up current support provided by the Special Child Care Benefit and the Jobs Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance programme.

The $304 million Community Child Care Fund, also starting in July 2017, will support services to reduce current barriers to accessing child care. The focus will be to support:

  • disadvantaged communities, including remote Indigenous communities and rural areas to strengthen the integration of child care services with other community services,
  • low income families in high child care cost areas to reduce financial barriers,
  • services operating in low viability markets, subject to clear requirements on how to improve business practice, and
  • a co-contribution towards new buildings, expansions and/or extensions to services in areas of demonstrated high demand and low child care availability.

This programme will take over responsibilities from the Community Support Programme and support an estimated 4,000 services around the country.

$20 million will also be provided under the fund for the integration of child care, maternal and child health, and family support services in a number of disadvantaged Indigenous communities, as recommended in the Forrest Review.

More than $200 million in additional funding will also now be delivered in the mainstream Child Care Subsidy to expand support to families that was being previously just delivered through Budget Based Funding programmes. This will give the services that relied on Budget Based Funding an opportunity to grow and support a much larger number of children, particularly Indigenous children in remote communities – it will assist to close the gap for Indigenous children accessing early learning.

The current child care system is too complicated. It’s hard for families to understand and it is trying to be all things to all people.

Our changes simplify this system making it more affordable, flexible, and easier for parents to access appropriate child care so they can study or hold down a job.

Today’s announcement demonstrates the Abbott Government’s commitment to ensuring all Australian families, regardless of circumstance, can access high quality and affordable child care.