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Australia More than half of parents would need to cut work if free childcare ends

23:40  30 may  2020
23:40  30 may  2020 Source:   watoday.com.au

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An end to free childcare would force parents in 60 per cent of households currently using care to cut work hours. © AAP Images An end to free childcare would force parents in 60 per cent of households currently using care to cut work hours.

An end to the federal government's childcare rescue package would force parents in 60 per cent of households currently using care to reduce work. And it would mostly be mothers who needed to stop or cut back their hours.

A national survey of 2280 families by the parents' group The Parenthood found a "snap back" to normal fees would mean one-third (34 per cent) of parents would need to reduce their work days or remove their children altogether from care.

In 68 per cent of households in which parents said their work hours would need to reduce to cope with the end to the government's early childhood education and care relief package, it would be the women whose work would go.

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The group has joined the national organisation for women leaders, Chief Executive Women, in calling for the childcare lifeline to be extended and no out-of-pocket fees to be charged until the end of September.

The $1.6 billion package is due to wind up on June 28 but Education Minister Dan Tehan is considering whether to extend it until the end of September.

An announcement is expected imminently, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned parents last week the measure was intended to be temporary and would end as soon as is practicable.

"A really significant proportion of households have either lost income or lost jobs; there are 16 per cent of households in which both parents have either lost or radically reduced income," said Georgie Dent, childcare campaign spokeswoman for The Parenthood.

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She said almost half (42 per cent) of families reported at least one parent had lost income due to the pandemic, and among those who have reduced work, almost two-thirds (63 per cent) will be forced to reduce days or remove children from care if the previous childcare fee structure returned.

Most people (almost 80 per cent) said even before COVID-19 "they had considered whether it was worth working full time at all because of the cost of childcare", Ms Dent said.

"Considering the scale of job losses and income reductions now being experienced the fees willsimply become prohibitive and the activity test will further punish families where one or moreparent has lost work."

She said to make the struggling childcare sector viable if the package was extended, the subsidy to centres would need to be lifted from 50 per cent to "60 or 70 per cent", as many operators are struggling to stay afloat with severely reduced revenue.

"The risk of not getting it right is we put families in a situation where employment is going to be compromised; if they still have a job and care is unaffordable so they can't continue to work, and if they have lost a job and lost their childcare and find work they will not be able to take up those opportunities."

She said continuity of early education for children was also important especially in families experiencing significant stress related to parents losing work.

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