The child care sector in Australia, as in other countries, was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. These effects were partly related to restrictions and health concerns and partly related to changes in parental employment and finances.
This report looks at families' experiences of child care, and includes reports on how use was affected by COVID-related restrictions over May-June 2020 and also child care use at November-December 2020. It draws on findings from the first and second surveys of the AIFS Families in Australia Survey series.
- In response to COVID impacts but ahead of the introduction of the Child Care Fee Relief Package, many children had been withdrawn from child care, both formal and informal. At May-June 2020, 26% of parents with children under 13 years were using approved or formal care, compared to 52% before COVID, and 14% were using grandparent or other informal care compared to 38% before COVID. By the second survey, in November-December 2020, the rates of formal child care use were similar to those reported for before COVID.
- Among families that stopped or changed care arrangements up to May-June 2020, the main reasons were concerns for children's health (44%) and because parents were at home (32%).
- About three in four child care users report their child care fully meets their needs. The proportion is lower (66%) in families that only use informal child care.
- Key issues that emerge as barriers to access to formal care, among those that have some unmet demand for formal care, are cost and availability.