MEMBER for Mallee, Andrew Broad, has said that thousands of families across the Wimmera Mallee are set to bene?t as part of the Coalition Government’s reforms to child care and early learning that passed Parliament recently.

“One of the consistent messages I hear, when talking to families across our region, is that the costs of child care and early learning are so high, that for many families, it is simply not an option,” Mr Broad said.

“I know that families are under increasing pressure and when the early years and foundation learning of our children are being impacted, it’s time to say that clearly, our system is broken and as a Government, it is our job to fix it.

“Child care and early learning must be affordable, accessible and flexible for families living in regional Australia and the reforms that were passed, the biggest reforms to child care in 40 years, address this imperative.”

Across the Wimmera Mallee, statistics show that 5440 children are currently enrolled in approved child care and Mr Broad believes that the injection of an additional $1.6 billion into the child care system will leave many of the families already using child care better off, while enabling more families to finally see it as an option for their children.

“Our reforms are targeting our hardest working Australians, those working the most but earning the least and they will also encourage more people to either return to the workforce or increase their current work hours.”

The reforms come into effect from 1 July 2018 and there are three key features:

1. Better support for people working the most and earning the least. The changes simplify the current complicated rebate system by replacing payments with a single, means-tested Child Care Subsidy that boosts the current flat 50 percent rebate rate to 85 percent for hardworking families earning up to $65,710 and then tapers down to 20 percent for families earning more than $250,000 and cuts out for families earning more than $350,000. The reforms also introduce a three-step activity test with an entry point of four hours a week that gives families eligibility for 18 hours a week of subsidised child care. This will align hours of care with the combined amount of work, training, study, volunteering or other recognised activity being undertaken by parents.

2. Relief from the rebate cap. The $7500 rebate cap will be abolished to ensure families on incomes of $185,710 or less aren’t limited by a cap on the amount of child care they can access and the cap will be increased to $10,000 for families earning more than $185,710, overall offering relief to the approximately 100,000 families that hit the current $7500 rebate cap.

3. Downward pressure on incessant fee increases. The reforms introduce an ‘hourly rate cap’ on the subsidies the Government will pay that will set a benchmark price so Australians have a reference point to hold providers accountable and from which they can expect prices shouldn’t dramatically exceed. They will also slash red tape so services can be more flexible in the hours they deliver instead of the current system where families who routinely need and use only four, six or eight hours of care, are charged for 10 or 12 hours. Mr Broad said that as the reforms were being developed, special consideration was given to regional and rural early education and he looks forward to seeing families across the Wimmera Mallee benefi ting from the changes that he believes will encourage greater participation in paid work and better educational outcomes for young children across the region.