New child care funding package impacts still a mystery

Far West Family Day Care manager Karen Lennon said lots of local families are
asking questions about what will happen to child care benefits and subsidies under the Federal Governments changes to the child care system.

It’s still a bit of a mystery as to what it will mean for local families with children in Family Day Care and In-Home Care when the Federal Government’s changes to child care come into effect next month.

Far West Family Day Care & In Home Care Service (FWFDC) manager Karen Lennon last week said she, and many of the parents they cater for, still have a lot of questions as to what will happen under the Government’s new child care system that aims to help parents to get back to work.

“It’s called the ‘Jobs For Families’ package and at no point is there anything about what’s good for the children,” a frustrated Mrs Lennon told The Cobar Weekly last week.

She said very little information has been forthcoming on the new system which has been labelled as “hard to navigate, inconsistent and expensive”.

FWFDC caters for 125 children in In Home Care (eg nannies and governesses on properties), 140 children in Family Day Care and has 45 enrolments for the COOSH (Cobar Outside of School Hours) service.

FWFDC care covers Nyngan, Cobar, Bourke, Walgett, Brewarrina and Lightning Ridge.

“In some of those communities, we’re the only child care option and certainly the only child care option for under threes,” Mrs Lennon said.

“The ‘Jobs for Families’ package has sweeping changes for the childcare sector and that includes the removal of all operational funding to fund the coordination units of the services.”

Mrs Lennon said there were concerns their service would no longer be viable because of the loss of funding.

“We have been aware that this has been happening for two years so we have been putting money aside to cover us, certainly for the first six months while we navigate what this all means, so we’ve bought ourselves some time so we can minimise the impact.

“We’ve been forced to look at cost cutting measures, examine our budgets and the impact that will have on charges to parents.

“We’ve held parent meetings to inform parents on what is happening. We’ve sent out newsletters and notifications to tell them what they have to do to update their details with the new system and what the new fee structures will look like.

“It has resulted in an increase of fees to the parents but we don’t know exactly what that will look like until this new system is in place because at this point we can’t do any estimates,” Mrs Lennon said.

“Parents want to know, before they pay, what it’s going to cost them, but at this stage I can’t tell them.

“I can’t get answers and I can’t even tell them where to go to get answers.

“The government is running very behind in their implementation of the new system.”

Mrs Lennon said the changes will have very little effect on COOSH.

She said the COOSH service has never received a huge amount of funding and so a small increase in fees will cover the shortfall.

It’s going to be very busy for parents and FWFDC over the next three weeks, regardless of whether the government and families are ready or not for the new child care system.