A new subsidy system for child care is causing waves in Gunnedah

Li’l Achievers director Linda Gallagher says the Child Care Subsidy has created an inblaance.
Li’l Achievers director Linda Gallagher says the Child Care Subsidy has created an inblaance.

The new Child Care Subsidy has thrown families into confusion, child care director Linda Gallagher has said.

Mrs Gallagher said parents and guardians of children at Li’l Achievers are struggling to navigate the new system and the impact of the change is unbalanced, with some families benefiting and some at a disadvantage.

“On our end, it’s really inconsistent – some families are benefiting greatly and some are getting a minimum percentage of child care subsidy,” Mrs Gallagher said. 

“It’s good for dual-income families but the percentage of rebate that’s offered to families seems to be inconsistent.

“It’s like a real big sliding bell curve. You don’t know where they place on curve – what’s the percentage of care they’re entitled to?

“[Parents and guardians] are coming straight to the front desk and wanting to know, ‘Why does my statement say this now?’”

On Monday, the Child Care Subsidy replaced the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate, with the subsidy now paid directly to services and passed onto families.

It’s like a real big sliding bell curve. You don’t know where they place on curve – what’s the percentage of care they’re entitled to?

Linda Gallagher, Li'l Achievers director

The subsidy families receive is determined by income and the hours spent working, volunteering, job-seeking, studying or doing work experience.

“Where some families were perhaps getting 72 per cent care before, they’re now getting 80 per cent care, but some families are cut and don’t get anything at all,” Mrs Gallagher said.

“You can’t just be a mum at home – you have to be studying, show that you’re searching for work or have work, and there are really strict guideline for meeting that.”

For families earning less than $186,958 per year, the yearly cap of $7500 for the subsidy has been removed, and for families earning more than this, the cap has been raised from $7500 to $10,000. 

Mrs Gallagher said the previous system was “more consistent”, however, dual-income families didn’t fare as well.

“Families that have to work full-time, 52 weeks of the year, they were disadvantaged because the closer they got to the $7500, the less they got back,” she said.

Boggabri’s Melanie and Josh Edwards are thrilled about the new system and is already saving more than $200 a fortnight on fees at Goodstart Early Learning Centre in Gunnedah.

The Edwards’ three-year-old son Heath is enrolled eight days a fortnight and before the new system came in, they were only receiving a subsidy of $27.91. Now they are receiving a subsidy of $58.66, almost $40 more.

Boggabri's Heath Edwards is enrolled at Good Start Early Learning Centre.

Boggabri's Heath Edwards is enrolled at Good Start Early Learning Centre.

“It’s fantastic,” Mrs Edwards said.

“It’s helping working families.”

Mrs Edwards said the new system had also simplified the rebate process.

“It’s one payment. You don’t have to worry about it – it goes to the centre and you pay the difference,” she said.

Children doing pre-school programs in long day care centres the year before they start school will continue to be subsidised for 18 hours a week, regardless of whether their parents work or not.

To find out more about the Child Care Subsidy, visit https://www.education.gov.au/ChildCarePackage

If you’ve been impacted by the new subsidy, email vanessa.hohnke@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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