Are you a winner or loser in childcare changes?

WHILE many Australian families have been quick to applaud the changes to childcare because they'll be slightly better off, other are still confused or have realised they'll get nothing.

From parents who are $70 worse off each week, to those who will pocket about $40 extra, situations vary considerably when assessed against the Turnbull Government's new Child Care Package that comes into affect on July 2.

Many are happy the $7613 annual cap has been removed for families earning a combined income of under $186,958, while those earning more than this figure but less than $351,248 will be able to claim the new Child Care Subsidy up to $10,190.

In the past, many families have struggled to keep budgets in the final few months of the financial year when they had exhausted that limit and were waiting for it to be reset.

Even though Education Minister Simon Birmingham is urging families to update their Centrelink details so they don't miss out, many have said they would wait until the end of the financial year anyway because they weren't sure of their situations.

Australian Childcare Alliance spokeswoman Nesha Hutchinson said at least 25 per cent of families would be worse off under the new system.

The changes are designed to get an extra 230,000 families to increase their workforce participation.

"It's worse off in terms of the subsidy they'll get, because of the income test or they don't meet the activity test," she said.

"There are a lot of families that won't meet the activity test for a number of reasons.

"You have to remember this entire thing was called the jobs for families package. It's not focused on children being in care, it is focused on families working."

But Ms Hutchinson said families that missed out would simply have to pay to give their child the best start.

"Early childhood education is what changes outcomes for children," she said.

"The ones who will miss out are children who need to be getting that good start and denying them access or a subsidy is denying them that better start."

She said they won't know the true scale of situations until every family updated their details, but she urged families to closely look at their situations and what activities counted such as simple things like working in your local church.

Under the scheme, recognised activities include paid work, maternity leave, studying and training, unpaid work for a family business, looking for work, volunteering, self-employment and other activities on a case-by-case basis.

Tomorrow Mr Birmingham will also host a session on Facebook Live with news.com.au at 4pm in Surry Hills, Sydney, to go through the changes, answer questions live and discuss any other issues.

We've taken a look at some examples of families who are worse or better off and we'll put these to the Minister, but if you'd like to share your story, join us live or send us your details.

 

WORSE OFF

No rebate at all

One Sydney family living on the northern beaches estimated they would be about $8000 out of pocket a year.

This is because they simply want to put their three-year-old in daycare one day a week to help with his development as he has speech difficulties.

Tim is an IT manager who is making $110,000 a year but because his wife is looking after their two children at home and doesn't work, the family doesn't meet the activity test where both parents have to be working, studying, volunteering or looking for work.

"She doesn't want to say she's looking for work when she's not," Tim said. "She was looking at going back but looking at childcare costs in our area there was no financial benefit to have half her salary go to daycare costs."

The family are already paying for their toddler's speech therapy and will struggle with their budget even more by introducing childcare.

"My salary only just covers the mortgage and bills and we're digging into savings every month," he said.

"When she's at home looking after another child permanently it just seems unfair.

"I'm working late all the time so it's not like I can come home and she can do some work.

"I'm in a well paid job and I've been paying my tax and it seems we don't get anything, it's frustrating."

He said not being able to go into a Centrelink office to ask questions was inconvenient because dealing with them on the phone could be "horrendous".

Tim has also been trying to figure out if they were still able to get some money back through the Family Tax Benefit.

Left confused

One Gold Coast mum-of-two is so confused by the changes she's not sure what her family will get.

They are currently paying about $760 a week in childcare for two children as they hit the current annual cap of $7613 so are now out of pocket.

Sarah, who works full-time as does her partner, said she would have hit the cap earlier had her mum not started watching the kids one day a week.

"I really don't understand it much at all but we'll just pay what we have to," she said.

Sarah's sister is actually a family daycare provider and said it was still hard to determine what fees she would be quoting her families.

"All I know is that there are going to be a lot of families affected by the change as they are allowed less hours of care to what they use to have," she said.

"Most centres charge a day fee so no matter if you are there two hours or the full 12 hours you get charged for that day rate," she said.

"A lot of family day care are starting to charge for a day rate but there are a lot that will charge a minimum of 6-8 hours per day and then go up from there to the parents needs."

Chloe and Rhys do some reading at the Knaith Road Childcare Centre. Research shows early childhood education is important for development.
Chloe and Rhys do some reading at the Knaith Road Childcare Centre. Research shows early childhood education is important for development.

Childcare is too expensive anyway

Trade is a foster mum but gave up putting her four kids in childcare because it cost their family too much.

"It was so stupidly expensive, that I pulled the kids out and arranged for a family friend to help out in the mornings," she said.

"I've had to work out with friends to help care for them if I can't, like if I'm working."

Trade thinks childcare fees are a rip-off.

"I was so burned by one provider that I'll never access childcare again."

When she updated her details on myGov she also discovered the system was telling her she had been overpaid for the childcare rebate when she used it.

She was now waiting for the assessment to arrive before she queried the problem.

In the new system, there are exemptions for parents who legitimately cannot meet activity test requirements.

The package also includes a $1.2 billion safety net for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, as well as those from regional and remote communities

 

BETTER OFF

Great for baby number three

The Rogers family of the Gold Coast think they will be about $40 a week better off.

That's with four-year-old Maverick in childcare four days a week, and five-year-old Havarna in after school care two days a week.

"The changes will make it easier for me to return to work after I have baby number three in November knowing that childcare is a bit more affordable than when my first two were in day care," said working mum Melinda.

"When I was working full-time and had my first two in daycare I was forced to pay full fees at $950 a week for four months of the year.

"Now that the cap on the yearly subsidy has been changed I won't have to face this issue again a third time around.

"The cap ... at $7500 per child, per year made it impossible for me to continue in full-time work and I was forced to re-evaluate my working circumstances last year."

The Rogers family from the Gold Coast talking about childcare. Picture: Justin Ma Photography
The Rogers family from the Gold Coast talking about childcare. Picture: Justin Ma Photography

Huge relief on cap change

Sydney mum Kate and her husband both work full-time with their two kids in full-time care from about 7.30-3.30pm each day.

"Because they're in daycare centres it's a daily - not an hourly - rate, so financially it doesn't matter if we drop them off later or pick them up earlier, we pay the same," she said.

"Without a rebate, having two children in full-time care in Sydney is over $1000 a week. And we've just been notified those fees are jumping again from July 1."

Because the rebate at the moment isn't means tested, all families get back 50 per cent on their total fees. But because the cap is $7613 per child, per financial year, Kate hit that limit pretty quickly with full-time care.

"Since February, we've been paying full fees - well over $1000 a week," Kate said.

"While we of course knew it was coming, we really feel it.

"I'm grateful for things like hand-me-down clothes for our fast growing children."

Because the new changes are means tested and both parents earn just more than the new threshold, their rebate will be slightly less than 50 per cent from July.

But with the cap lifted they've worked out they'll be better off overall.

"We won't have months every year where we're paying over $1000 a week and that will be a huge relief," Kate said.

No longer having to borrow

Bec is also a Sydney mum-of-two who's realised she'll be better off with the cap being lifted, meaning she won't have to source extra money to pay fees.

Last financial year she had one child under two and one under five in childcare, and the family had moved to a new area where the fees were more expensive.

"I only worked part-time and had my children in daycare three days a week but my youngest went over the government cap in May last year so had to pay full fees - $660 a week - for a two-month period plus the $157 a week for my oldest which was almost my entire weekly wage," she said.

"I hadn't planned for this as it hadn't happened before and we don't have any family around who can help look after the kids so I had to borrow thousands of dollars to cover the day care fees which was pretty stressful.

"This financial year, I work full-time and only have one child in daycare, four days a week, while my eldest goes to before and after school care."

Bec said she has gone over the cap again and has been paying full daycare fees - about $900 a fortnight - since April.

"Under the new system for the next financial year we will be better off as we will still get the 50 per cent rebate and there is a higher government cap so hopefully there won't be any nasty shocks towards the end of the financial year," she said.



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