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Childcare costs keep parents at home

Single mum Joanne Richards is enjoying the school holidays with kids Chloe and Maddison, but it’s an especially difficult time to afford their necessary child care.

Child care costs are already so high they prevent many parents from returning to work, but recent forecasting has shown they are set to rise by another 22 per cent by 2020.

According to Care for Kids the average cost of child care services in Tumut is currently $75.50 per day. Parents can expect to see that price rise yearly for at least the next four years, the Department of Education’s research shows.

For Tumut single mum Joanne Richards, that price rise is likely to have very real consequences.

“It scares me a lot, I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford that based on my current situation,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be able to work, I’d have to stay home to look after the children and that’s really difficult.

“I want to keep working and show my children how to be a good role model, I want to be able to live in a house that we can all enjoy. I don’t want to have to move in with my parents and that’s what it could lead to.”

She is currently paying $150 – $200 a week for child care, which is a significant chunk of her pay as an accountant. She does her best to juggle her work hours with her daughters’ school hours, who are aged seven and nine, but even then she has had to make sacrifices in order to pay for her kids’ after-hours and school holiday care.

“As it stands my girls are allowed to play one sport each a year, they obviously want to do other things but I can’t afford it. I miss out on a lot, I’ve given up a lot of things for myself to be able to let them live the life that I want them to lead,” she said.

“I don’t have that network [that some mums rely on], my parents are working and they need to work, and they don’t have the time to help me as a single parent.”

The Federal Government is pushing for a $3 billion shake-up of the child care rebate system, which would see the current cap of $7, 500 a year removed for parents making below $185,710 a year. The cap for parents with incomes above that limit would be $10, 000 a year.

“We currently have before the Parliament the most significant reform of the child care system in 40 years and I encourage Labor to stop the political games and get on board by passing the savings needed to fund our child care reforms,” said Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Goodstart, one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit child care centre operators, has supported this move: “This year more than 110,000 families are expected to exceed the annual rebate cap which has been frozen at 2008 levels ($7500) leaving many struggling to pay the full-cost of care for weeks and sometimes months,” they said.

The child care rebate involves the government covering half of families’ day care costs up to $7, 500 – which, at a centre that charges $100 a day for example, still means that parents are paying $50 a day for the service.

There is also the child care benefit scheme, which contributes up to $212 a week depending on parental income and the children’s age.

Labor believes the answer lies in funding more child care centres to offset the huge demand and lengthy waiting lists that are a ubiquitous part of the current system.

After subsidies, child care takes up around 10 per cent of the average Australian family’s income.