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Free or cheap child care for all families: New report recommends major overhaul

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Borys, Stephanie
Publication Date: 
11 Jun 2024


Families should be offered free or cheap child care regardless of their income or work status, according to a report released by the Centre for Policy Development (CPD).

The policy think tank has made a series of recommendations on how federal and state governments could improve Australia's early childhood sector to ensure it is more affordable and accessible.

The key recommendation is to provide three days of free child care for disadvantaged families. The CPD has suggested that could apply to households with a combined income of $80,000 or less.

Parents earning more would be asked to pay $30 for three days of care. The estimated cost to the government would be $7 billion a year.

CPD program director Katherine Oborne said that figure did not take into account the long term savings that would eventuate as a result of the measure.


Reports calls for higher pay for sector staff

Aside from cost being a barrier for some families, a current shortage of workers has many parents struggling to access the care they need.

The CPD report acknowledged it would take a "sustained effort" to ensure there were enough staff to meet the demand that would come with more people accessing cheaper and free child care.

Katherine Oborne said retention and further incentives were needed.


Government promising cheaper child care

Parents pay some of the highest rates for child care in Australia when compared to other developed countries and the idea of cheaper child care is one the federal government supports.

Last year the government made some changes to the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) regime. Families with a combined income of $80,000 now have 90 per cent of their fees covered, while households earning up to $530,000 have access to some support.

During the 2022 federal election campaign, Labor said its "aim" would be to implement a universal 90 per cent subsidy for all families. However, the government has not set a date on when this would or should occur by.

It has launched a series of reviews, which included asking the Productivity Commission (PC) to look at the sector.

The PC released a draft report last year that said three days of free care should be offered to households earning up to $80,000 and flagged it would conduct further modelling and analysis of a 90 per cent subsidy.

The final report is due to be given to the government by the end of this month.