Dan Tehan spoke to Norman Swan on ABC radio this morning, where Dr Swan asked him about what was happening with childcare:
Swan: You announced yesterday more support for child care operators in Victoria, which will be in place for most of January. So, obviously, Victoria’s taken an economic hit, but we also hear that child care operators are finding it tough in tourist areas in Australia, so it’s not just Victoria. Why aren’t these provisions being made available in other states, even in a targeted fashion?
Tehan: Yeah, look, it’s a good question, and there are some measures which we are keeping in place for the rest of Australia, and we also have other support mechanisms for those child care centres that we can target on a case by case basis, and that’s what we will be doing. So, for all those providers who might be in areas hard hit, such as tourism areas, we can provide case by case support to those facilities as well. So, the package yesterday, predominantly for Victoria, obviously they’ve been very hard hit by this second Victorian wave, but, case by case, there are support mechanisms there for other providers around the nation.
Swan: But, what we’ve been told by the sector is that it can be eye wateringly complex, and some child care centres are just giving up on applications for funds. How can you simplify it?
A small group of children play at a childcare centre in Sydney. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP
Tehan: Look, so, one of the things that we’ve obviously been very successful at through this pandemic is keeping 99 per cent of our child care providers operational, and providing that important care to young children. Now, with these additional measures, we are looking to make sure, for those centres who need support and relief, that we will be simplifying those measures, and, obviously, we will continue to work with the sector and engage with them to make sure that those application processes are as seamless as possible and as quick as possible. But, one of the things that we have been able to do, unlike many other countries, is keep the sector up, operational and viable, and I take my hat off, in particular, to all those early childhood educators who, right through this pandemic, have provided that really important care to young Australians.
Swan: Do you think parents understand the activity test? I tried to read about it last and I thought, I just, I don’t understand that, if I was a parent.
Tehan: Look, what the activity test is, in simple terms, is what we want you to do is either, through work or volunteering, is to be contributing, and, in return, what the government does is provide you with subsidised child care. Now, the way it works is rather complex, but what, that’s why we’ve now extended the activity test, or exemptions from the activity test, for all families, right through till, to April. This is something that the sector asked for us to do nationally. It’s something that we’ve done nationally, because, most importantly, what it will enable is those families who have lost work or lost working hours to be able to get additional support.