Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

2006-07 Budget – A More responsive, quality child care system

Family and Community Services Minister Mal Brough today said that commitments in the 2006-07 Budget will ensure that the record level of investment in child care by the Howard Government is supported by more responsive management, quality and compliance systems to provide better service to parents.

Mr Brough said that parents and taxpayers alike will benefit from ensuring that the best value of the record $9.5 billion investment over four years is provided in quality child care for parents, through better management and accountability.

The Government has committed to a significant investment to establish a National Child Care Management System.

“Families will benefit as a result of increased IT, with a more responsive and reliable child care system. Families will have up-to-date information on services and availability in their local area,” Mr Brough said

“The introduction of such an innovative system will also support approved child care services to implement a more streamlined process, cutting unnecessary red tape and providing parents with improved access to information on child care availability.

“Currently we know that there is, by and large, sufficient funding to provide places to meet demand, but there are hotspots of undersupply.

“However, there is no reliable, centralised and independent source of child care market data to ensure that the movements in supply and demand can be accurately tracked. This is no longer acceptable when the taxpayer is being asked to make such a large investment to assist families in need of child care,” Mr Brough said

“The most up-date information available will provide the Government with a sound basis to monitor the child care market and, where necessary, develop future policies.

“The Child Care Management System will assist with a more responsive and efficient system for families and builds on my announcement of 2 April 2006, that the Child Care Access Hotline will be expanded to include information on child care vacancies. From 1 July 2006, families can ring the Child Care Access Hotline and get up-to-date information on vacancies in their local area.”

“The Child Care Management System, expected to be implemented over a five year period, will provide services with access to technology, systems and information exchange that many services have never had access to before.

“Better systems for providers, especially small community and out of school hours services, mean that those carer resources can be better directed to quality care, rather than cumbersome manual administrative processes.”

Mr Brough also announced that the Howard Government will commit $50.8 million to implement a more rigorous compliance strategy, ensuring that maximum bang for the buck is achieved from every dollar of taxpayer funds, and to underpin public confidence in the integrity of child care providers.

“The compliance strategy includes an information and awareness campaign for families and services and an increased level of monitoring and checking of child care services to improve fraud detection.

“We want to make sure that services are claiming the right amount of Child Care Benefit on behalf of families.”

“As well as more rigorous financial compliance, the Government has committed to further improve the Quality Assurance system providing greater certainty for families that their children are receiving quality child care,” Mr Brough said

“The management and compliance measures in the 2006-07 Budget provide more confidence for parents that every dollar of the Howard Government’s record expenditure on child care will be better used to provide quality places for their child, where and when the demand occurs,” Mr Brough said.

“These innovations, along with the major structural change of removing artificial caps on places, represent the biggest change to the child care system since the introduction of the Child Care Benefit.”

Child care management system

Why is this important?

The Australian Government has announced a commitment to making a significant investment in the development of a Child Care Management System for the child care sector. The introduction of such a system will provide families and the Government with more timely and reliable information than ever before on child care availability, supply and use.

Who will benefit?

Parents, in particular, will benefit from this new system by having a more responsive child care system and having more information on availability. The Child Care Management System will streamline processes and reduce the administrative burden on child care services. The Child Care Management System will provide better management and information technology systems to child care services. It will help services get access to technology and systems that many have never had access to before and provide an automated system for exchange of information. This means less time devoted to timely and inefficient manual administrative processes and more time devoted to providing quality care.

Importantly, improved systems mean that parents get the maximum value in quality care from the record level of support the Howard Government provides to parents for child care through the Child Care Benefit and the Child Care tax rebate – as well as other supplementary funding provided to services.

What funding is the Government committing to the initiative?

Final funding will be announced in the future, following consultation with the child care sector.

What have we done in the past?

The Australian Government is now providing unprecedented levels of support to families, including doubling the number of child care places since 1996. The current data system does not allow us to keep pace with this expanding growth. It is imperative that timely and accurate data is available to manage this investment and ensure it is benefiting families.

The Government has already announced the first steps to improving Child Care information for parents, through the Child Care Access Hotline. This new management system will build on the Hotline to provide additional information on usage, supply and demand.

Fraud and Compliance – improving child care compliance

Why is this important?

Families will benefit from an increased compliance role in the child care sector because services will have to pass on families’ correct Government child care assistance to them. Families will have more confidence in the level of care provided by their child care providers due to increased Child Care Benefit spot checks on child care services.

What funding is the Government committing to the initiative?

The Government will provide $50.8 million over four years.

What have we done in the past?

The Government has taken an active role in child care quality and compliance since the 1990s. However, the significant growth in child care places and the increased number of services has seen a need to increase funds to continue to monitor the industry effectively.

When will the initiative conclude?

This measure provides funding until 2009-10.