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It's About Time - Chapter 7

It's About Time

Chapter 7:

Government Support: Early childhood education and care

7.1 Introduction
7.2 What children want and need
7.3 Early childhood education and care services and children's wellbeing
7.4 Government provision of early childhood education and care services
7.5 How do we make child care services more family-friendly?
7.6 Making early childhood education and care services more accessible for parents and children with disability
7.7 Integration of child care and early childhood education
7.8 Paid work and family consequences of the cost and availability of child care
7.9 Conclusion

7.1 Introduction

In HREOC's consultations with individuals and groups around the country, the provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC) emerged as a central concern of Australian families struggling to balance their paid work and care responsibilities. The provision of child care for infants, care for school aged children before and after school and during school holidays, and preschool education were the services most frequently raised by parents to HREOC. While it was not the intention of this project to carry out a thorough analysis of the ECEC services in this country,1 or to put forward a detailed program of reform, it is clear from our conversations with parents around the country that reform is urgently required.

This chapter provides an overview of the basic landscape of provision of ECEC services in Australia. It considers the services most used by parents in paid work which assist them in balancing their paid work with their responsibilities for their children - child care for infants, care and education for preschool aged children and outside school hours care for school aged children. It also aims to place these services within the context of a continuum of ECEC services which include a wide range of activities to support children's social, cognitive, physical, and emotional development such as playgroups, child care services, preschools, child health services, home visiting, parent education and programs for children with a disability or developmental delay.

The chapter considers what children have told us they want and need, the importance of ECEC services to children's wellbeing and gives an overview of the services and support that governments currently provide. The chapter then examines the key ways in which the provision of ECEC might be improved - principally through improving the availability and affordability of services, increasing flexibility of operating hours and addressing accessibility. Finally, this chapter considers the consequences for working parents, policy makers and service providers failing to address these concerns.

7.2 What children want and need

Children that HREOC spoke to during our consultations nearly all told us they wanted to spend more time with their parents.

I would love them to come to school functions more than they do.2

My (step) dad does weekend work sometimes. Yeah, I'd like to see him more.3

I'd like to see my mum more in the holidays.4

This desire for time is reciprocal with parents also wanting more time with their children.

I looked for a part time, three day a week job but I couldn't find it. I'm envious of the time she spends with our baby.5

I have a 4 year old ... We both work full time ... The amount of work we do we are finding we don't have a lot of quality time ... I don't spend enough time with my child - or my partner.6

These views are backed up in a recent survey undertaken by the Australian Childhood Foundation, in which 26 per cent of children reported wanting to spend more time with their parents and 37 per cent wanted to do more things with their parents.7 Previous studies by the same researchers found that over a third of parents also believed they did not spend enough time with their children, three out of four parents believed that balancing work and family was a serious issue for them and 71 per cent of parents interviewed struggled to find the time to enjoy activities together with their children.8

However, children need love, affection, care and developmental opportunities not just from parents and siblings but from other significant adults in their lives and their peers. Adults are better able to nurture children when they are in supportive communities that take the experiences, needs, interests and development of children seriously.9

There is clear evidence that while families are the most important influence in children's lives, good quality children's programs do not just enhance children's wellbeing by increasing their parents' labour market attachment and socio-economic status, they also enhance children's development, mediate against risk, help with the development of peer relationships and provide a site for building parental supports and networks.10

The evidence of these benefits is clearest for children aged three to five. Research into the benefits of child care for infants is more equivocal with some researchers suggesting that there are clear attachment and developmental benefits for infants in formal, high quality children's services and conversely others who assert that for very young infants, early entry into care and long hours of care can be disruptive to mother/child attachment, may make mother/child interaction less harmonious and may be linked to high stress levels and behavioural difficulties.11 What is agreed by researchers is that low quality formal care, large groups, long hours and instability of care can present risks of insecure attachments and behaviour problems.12

This research reinforces the need, further discussed in Chapter 4, for the introduction of a national scheme of paid maternity and consideration of paid parental leave which would give Australian families real choices about the care options for their infant children. It also reinforces the importance of high quality children's services.

7.3 Early childhood education and care services and children's wellbeing

In addition to the vital role that ECEC play in assisting parents to balance their paid work and family/carer responsibilities, it is well recognised that ECEC services, particularly for children from birth to eight years, are of critical importance to individuals' long term mental, physical and emotional health and demonstrate cost-effective benefits for children, their families and the community.

The Nobel prize winning economist James Heckman has pointed out that not only does investment in young children promote fairness and social justice, it also offers broader social and economic benefits: increasing productivity, raising earnings and promoting social attachment, with returns to dollars invested estimated to be as high as 15-17 per cent.13

The OECD has identified eight key elements of policy that are likely to promote equitable access to quality ECEC, which should form part of wider efforts to reduce child poverty, promote gender equality, improve education systems, value diversity and increase the quality of life of both parents and children. These key elements are:

  • a systematic and integrated approach to policy development and implementation with a clear vision for children from birth to eight and a lead agency which works in coordination with others to foster coherent and participatory policy development which caters for the needs of diverse children and families;
  • a strong and equal partnership with the education system which supports life long learning from birth and recognises ECEC as an important part of the education process;
  • a universal approach to access, with particular attention to children in need of support, with close to universal access for children from age three and ensuring that all children have equal opportunities to attend regardless of family income, parental employment status, specific educational needs or ethnic/language background;
  • substantial public investment in services and infrastructure;
  • a participatory approach to quality improvement and assurance which engages staff, parents and children;
  • appropriate training and working conditions for staff in all types of services taking account of the growing educational and social responsibilities of the profession and the critical need to recruit and retain a qualified, diverse and gender-mixed workforce and ensures a career that is satisfying, respected and financially viable;
  • systematic attention to monitoring and data collection in relation to the status of children, provision of early education and care, the early childhood workforce and which identifies existing gaps in data collection and priorities for collection and evaluation; and
  • a stable framework and long term agenda for research and evaluation with sustained investment to support research on key policy goals.14

Plans have been on the agenda for a number of years now for the introduction of a broad policy framework known as the National Agenda for Early Childhood to guide current and future investment to support optimal development of children. Following an Australian Government decision in 2002, this Agenda was developed jointly with State and Territory governments and has four broad key action areas: healthy young families, early learning and care, supporting families and parenting and creating child friendly communities.

The Australian Government endorsed the National Agenda in December 2005 and it is now the framework that guides all Australian Government early childhood policy and program development. At the time of writing, governments in the ACT and Tasmania had also endorsed the Agenda which is informing work being undertaken by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).15

The national endorsement of this policy framework will represent an important development for Australian children in an environment in which the provision of ECEC has been historically fragmented with patchy availability and wide variations in affordability. Integration between child care services and State and Territory provided schooling, including preschool, is often poor.

While this chapter will focus on the provision of child care services, it is important to consider that care services must be provided within a coherent framework of other children's services. These include:

  • services to support the health of pregnant women, quality antenatal care and education for parents;
  • quality, universal early childhood health services for children up to school age;
  • programs to support at risk parents such as home visiting and early intervention and support services;
  • child protection systems; and
  • child safety programs.

RECOMMENDATION 33:

That the Australian, State and Territory governments finalise the National Agenda for Early Childhood as a matter of urgency to identify priorities for reform in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, and the responsibilities of all stakeholders in delivering these priorities.

7.4 Government provision of early childhood education and care services

The preamble to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognises the family:

... as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities in the community.

The CRC also recognises that the role of parents is not one to be carried out solely as an individual responsibility, and requires States to take all appropriate measures to:

... render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities.16

As the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has noted in its guide to the implementation of CRC,17 article 18 concerns the balance of responsibilities between parents and the state in the performance of parents' child-rearing responsibilities.18 It also reflects the requirement to ensure a child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her wellbeing.19 UNICEF has noted that "generous maternity and paternity leave and pay and 'family-sensitive' working conditions clearly meet the needs of both children and working parents".20

Governments are responsible for a wide range of programs which enable parents and carers to meet their responsibilities to children from income support programs through to regulation of child care. The Australian, State, Territory and local governments all have roles in the funding and administration of ECEC, with services delivered by the private, public and community sectors within a market environment. In brief, the Australian Government is responsible for child care support which includes:

  • the administration and payment of CCB payment to families and services;21
  • managing the quality assurance framework for child care services;
  • providing financial support to high need services (which may be shared with State or Territory governments);
  • maintaining some statistical data on supply of child care places and assisting parents and employers with information on child care options via the Child Care Access Hotline;
  • funding and administering the Inclusion and Professional and Support Program (IPSP) for children with specific needs; and
  • managing the Jobs, Education and Training (JET) child care fee assistance program.

States and Territories have primary responsibility for family and community support services, child welfare and protection services (for children who have been or are being abused, neglected or otherwise harmed and whose parents cannot provide adequate care or protection), preschools, schools and the regulation of child care services. The main areas of regulation of child care services include:

  • licensing for centre based long day care (in all States and Territories), family day care and outside school hours care (in some States and Territories) covering aspects of services' operations such as the numbers of children in care, the size of rooms and playground;s, the number of staff and qualifications and health and safety requirements
  • contributing in some States and Territories to capital and operational costs of services; and
  • funding services such as preschools which are not federally funded and
  • implementing and monitoring national standards in long day care, outside school hours care and family day care.

While this sharing of responsibility may allow services to be more locally focused, it has resulted in a challenging environment for the development of an integrated ECEC system. As highlighted in a recent report by the Australian Council for Educational Research, the:

... bewildering mix of national and state-based early childhood policy, funding and legislative requirements, have resulted in a labyrinth of child care and preschool services. There are complex layers and connections between government, voluntary and church groups, public education systems, independent, Catholic and other religious schools, community organisations, free-market forces, small business owner-operators and major commercial child care companies, plus of course families and children. So complex is the early childhood landscape, that many people, including families seeking care, have difficulty negotiating the maze of early childhood services.22

As previously emphasised, it was not the intention of this paper to consider the entirety of ECEC provision in Australia and the aim is to focus on those areas of chief importance to working parents and carers - that is, availability and affordability of care.

Government expenditure on ECEC is substantial - Australian, State and Territory government expenditure on children's services totalled approximately $2 487 million in 2004-2005.23 However, it is important to consider this expenditure in the context of community need and spending priorities. A recent study by the OECD highlights that Australian Government expenditure on ECEC is among the lowest in the OECD - Australian ECEC funding of around 0.4 per cent of GDP falls almost at the bottom of OECD country's expenditure which ranges from two per cent in Denmark to around 0.3 per cent in Canada.24 The European Commission Network on Children has recommended national expenditure of at least one per cent of GDP.25

Parents' and children's use of formal and informal child care

New national statistics on child care recently released by the ABS show that around 20 per cent of Australian children aged 0-12 years attend formal child care with 33 per cent receiving informal care, either alone or in combination with formal care.26

Formal ECEC services are regulated and generally away from the child's home. Informal care is non-regulated and arranged by the child's parents or carer, either in the child's home or elsewhere. Informal services comprise care by family members, friends, neighbours, nannies or baby-sitters and may be paid or unpaid.

Formal ECEC services are provided by the private, community and in some cases public sectors and are funded and regulated by the Australian State and Territory governments. These services include:

  • family day care;
  • long day care;
  • outside school hours care (which includes vacation care);
  • occasional care;
  • in-home care;27
  • multi care services;28
  • non-mainstream services29 and
  • preschools.

In the last decade in particular, the shift from informal to formal care has been marked. While the proportion of children in formal care has not changed significantly (from 19 per cent in 1993 to 25 per cent in 2002) the numbers of government approved formal child care places has grown from 168 000 in 1991 to more than 535 000 by 2004.30

It is important that choices are available for families relying on both formal and informal care services. Clearly the provision of child care is part of the answer and the more types of care available the more likely that families will find care that they regard as suitable for their children. This requires not only support for formal child care but also support to allow parents to freely make the choice to undertake such care themselves without incurring excessive personal costs.31

Many parents prefer their children to be in the care of other family members when they are not available to care for them themselves.32 Australian Women Lawyers pointed out that:

Grandparents are increasingly fulfilling the role as informal babysitters for their grandchildren. While this situation allows increased participation in the workforce by the children's mother the grandparents may decrease their participation in the workforce. The financial cost to grandparents due to providing care to their grandchildren is one issue that is not often considered.33

The COTA National Seniors Partnership emphasised the point that this care provision is not without cost.

The flexibility and continuity of informal child care they [grandparents] provide is often unpaid and often incur[s] costs to themselves but financially benefits their children and grandchildren ... When grandparents have to stay in paid work themselves as well as provide caring responsibilities, it may limit senior Australians' opportunity or choices of employment as they age, which will have an impact on their retirement income ... grandparents, as a major informal source of child care require support themselves. The assistance may include educational programs for grandparents in regard to communication with very young children and support available to them in emergency situations. 34

Such support requires governments to take a life cycle approach which considers a range of caring needs and assists the diverse range of families, parents and other family carers to maintain an active attachment to the paid workforce.35

Current availability and affordability of child care

There has been much debate in the community in recent times about the availability and affordability of child care services and places and there is some dispute about the extent of this as a problem. Nonetheless, parents frequently raised this issue with HREOC in their submissions and during consultations. Clearly the availability of formal child care services is a critical issue for many families. The importance of this issue was emphasised in consultations where HREOC was told that:

The cost of child care and inflexibility of child care is more of a BBQ stopper than the work/family debate.36

Submissions received also suggested child care is a significant issue for many families, which is having major impacts on the balance between paid work and family, and is not only an issue which affects people living in large, eastern seaboard cities as has been suggested by some commentators.

Parents' work patterns are severely affected by the availability of child care. There is clearly a child care crisis in Australia, and until government commits to resourcing high quality, affordable and enough paid child care places, many parents will not have any genuine choices about achieving a balance between their work, their family responsibilities and the other aspects of their lives which are important to them.37

The capacity to access affordable child care is an important determinant of whether professionals will have children and when they do so or whether they will return to the workforce. Member feedback demonstrates considerable anxiety about child care shortages. Some professionals are deferring returning to work due to a lack of child care places. Others are accepting a place when it is available, whether or not they are ready to return to work, due to the fear of losing the place.38

Availability and cost of child care has clear implications for women's capacity to share in paid work. Recent statistics from the ABS suggest that as many as 143 000 Australians (including 133 000 women) want to participate in the paid workforce but are not able to do so because they were engaged in caring for children or home duties.39 Clearly this not only due to child care availability, but the significance of availability cannot be discounted.

Funding and quality assurance of formal child care

The Australian Government provides assistance with the costs of formal child care through the CCB which is a means tested payment providing support for families using child care services, whether or not parents are in the paid work force. In 2004-2005 CCB payments amounted to $1.5 billion.40 The CCB is intended to be a contribution by the government to the cost of care, with parent fees set by individual services on the basis of commercial decisions undertaken by operators. Further assistance in the form of the Child Care Tax Rebate, announced during the 2004 election campaign, allows working families to claim 30 per cent out-of-pocket expenses or up to $4 000 per child per year, however it can only be claimed from the end of the 2005-2006 financial year.41

The government also provides assistance to child care services in which children have specific needs (such as children with disability and refugee children who have been subjected to trauma or torture) through the Inclusion Support Subsidy (ISS).42 The program provides assistance in the form of additional training for staff, provision of specialised equipment and resources and additional staff.43

The quality of formal child care services is administered by the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC). The NCAC administers a process known as Child Care Quality Assurance (CCQA) in long day care, family day care and outside school hours care services. CCQA is linked to CCB payments received by services on behalf of the parents of children in their care. Quality Assurance in family day care services is also linked to the Operational Assistance approval for family day care schemes. All services are required to register with NCAC and meet the requirements of the appropriate CCQA system in order to be eligible to receive CCB.44

While continued CCB approval for services requires that services comply with the requirements of the CCQA five step process, the model is not based on compulsory compliance. This means a service may still be able to continue to receive CCB, even if it has failed accreditation on more than one occasion, by being considered to have made unsatisfactory progress in relation to the CCQA. The NCAC is limited to reporting services that either fail to comply with or make satisfactory progress through CCQA to a unit in FaCSIA and the policy focus is one of professional development of services rather than imposing sanctions, such as cancellation of a service's CCB approval. One of the issues that has been raised by advocacy groups is that despite the significant level of government expenditure on child care principally through the CCB, the payment is not linked to the actual cost of service delivery.45

RECOMMENDATION 34:

That the Australian Government in cooperation with the States and Territories address concerns about quality in ECEC services by initiating a review of the current quality assurance framework administered by the National Childcare Accreditation Council and establishing more transparent systems for quality assurance compliance. Such a review should consider standardising regulatory frameworks for service quality including the National Standards for child care, State and Territory frameworks and Quality Assurance frameworks.

Child protection

State and Territory governments are responsible for child protection services including receiving and responding to reports of concern about at-risk children, providing support services where harm or a risk of harm is identified, initiating intervention and placing children in out-of-home care to secure their safety, working with families to reunite children where possible and securing permanent alternative care where family reunification is not possible.

This paper does not have the capacity to consider child protection in great detail, but it is important to note that services for at-risk children are a critical element of the continuum of ECEC services. Likewise, mainstream child care services can act as a key site of intervention for at-risk children and their families.

It is also relevant to note that out-of-home care of children is often taken on by two particular groups of carers - grandparents and Indigenous extended families - with implications for the ability of these family members to participate in the paid workforce.

Children in out-of-home care may be in the care of someone other than a parent either as a result of a formal care and protection order taken out by a State or Territory community services agency or as a result of an informal arrangement made by a parent or other guardian. Children in out-of-home care may be in home-based care with a relative, other kin or a foster carer, or live in residential care such as a family group home or in supported independent living. The ABS has estimated that almost 48 000 children nationally are in the care of someone other than a parent (or step-parent)46 and around 22 000 children were in formal out-of-home care nationally in 2004. Ninety four per cent of these children in formal out-of-home care are in home-based care, 40 per cent of whom with relatives or other kin.47

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are significantly over-represented among children in out-of-home care. National child protection data shows that Indigenous children are nearly 10 times as likely to be the subject of a child protection substantiation and six times more likely to be in out-of-home care, a key reason for which is clearly the generally lower socio-economic status of Indigenous families.48

As outlined above, the significant numbers of children in the care of family members has implications for the support provided to non-parent carers, many of whom are the child's grandparents. The Aboriginal Child Placement Principle which preferences placements for Indigenous children with their extended family, their own Indigenous community and subsequently other Indigenous people further increases this issue for Indigenous families. In June 2004, the proportion of Indigenous children placed in line with this principle ranged from more than 80 per cent in Western Australia to 40 per cent in Tasmania.49

7.5 How do we make child care services more family-friendly?

It is important that children's services are seen as an integrated part of national goals to promote the wellbeing of children and families. In order to make children's services more useful for and supportive of families trying to balance their paid work with care responsibilities, the central concerns must be availability and affordability of services and access for all families.

Increased availability of formal child care

ABS statistics demonstrate a significant level of unmet need in relation to all forms of formal child care. The recently released ABS Child Care Survey found that parents required additional formal care for almost 190 000 children nationally.50 The survey found that one third of these parents said they did not use additional care because services were booked out or no places were available, 10 per cent said that no services existed or they did not know of any in the area and 16 per cent cited the prohibitive cost of care.51

The majority of parents were seeking additional care for work reasons (54 per cent), personal reasons (31 per cent - although less than 10 per cent were to give parents a break/time alone) and reasons related to the child's development or needs (12 per cent).52

It is also important to note that many parents stated that they did not require formal care for some of the same reasons. Also reflecting unmet demand, 99 000 children were reported as not requiring additional care due to the cost of care and other services reasons accounted for a further 49 500 children not requiring additional child care.53

Child care availability was an issue frequently raised with HREOC in submissions and consultations.

It is the Commission's view that access to affordable, quality child care, both long day care and after school care, is fundamental to families in achieving a balance between paid work and family responsibilities. Where child care services are unavailable, one parent, who may be the only parent, must assume responsibility for the care of children, forcing them to reduce their participation in the workforce. This can have negative impacts on family income, as well as result in relationship stress, which can be detrimental to children.54

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that while many parents report no difficulties in accessing child care a significant number have experienced difficulties including:

  • finding care for a sick child (36 per cent);
  • the cost of child care (26 per cent);
  • finding good quality care (21 per cent), care at their choice of centre (23 per cent) or care in the right location (19 per cent);
  • getting the number of hours required (22 per cent);
  • juggling multiple child care arrangements (19 per cent);
  • finding care during school holidays (18 per cent); and
  • finding care for a child with "special" needs (11 per cent).55

HREOC has been told that child care for sick children is a particularly common problem for many parents and is also recognised by employers who told HREOC that there needs to be "[m]ore flexible child care arrangements available for sick children".56 And as was pointed out by a number of parents, "under fives are always sick".57

Undersupply of child care is a particular concern in rural and remote parts of Australia and areas dominated by low income families where services are generally less profitable and sustainable. Services in these areas may attract higher fees to allow for the risk of bad debts, to pay higher salaries with which to attract or retain staff or because there is little competition. Community based long day care in these areas may also charge higher fees to offset the cost of providing additional services to children with specific needs who make up a higher proportion of children in community based centres and who are more often concentrated in more disadvantaged communities.58

The NT government subsidizes child care, as well as the federal government, to the tune of something like $20 a week for the provider which lowers the cost but availability is still a problem.59

The availability of child care services presents even greater difficulties when the child, or the parent, has specific needs. These may include such things as specific needs related to disability, problems posed by inaccessible services or a need for culturally appropriate services. While the Australian Government provides a range of programs including the IPSP to assist children with additional needs to participate in inclusive mainstream child care programs, People with Disability Australia emphasised that:

The lack of child care and before and after-school care that will enrol children with disability prevents many women from being able to seek work. For women with disability, it is almost impossible to find child care and before and after-school care that is both accessible to them and that will enrol their children with disability.60

The Australian Government attempted to address some of the issues of availability in the 2005-06 Budget that provided for a lifting of current limits on the number of CCB eligible outside school hours and family day care places. The government estimates this will allow existing and new child care providers to expand their number of places to meet demand and will lead to 25 000 additional places over and above the existing 336 600 places.61 While this potential boost to places has been welcomed, concerns have been raised that the key difficulty will be finding carers willing and able to stay at home, caring for other people's children in a family day care setting, particularly in more affluent areas where demand is higher.62 Concerns have also been raised that the lack of apparent success in increasing the availability of long day care since places were uncapped, means that this is simply an attempt to shift responsibility for care further to the market.63 Again, it remains to be seen if and when these additional places will become available for use by parents.

A number of people identified the wages paid to child care workers as one of the critical problems in limiting any increase in the availability of child care.

One of the reasons it is so difficult to get child care is because we don't value child care workers as a role in society. The pay they get is peanuts. You can't increase the child care spaces if you don't increase the wage.64

Child care workers are doing the long hours looking after someone else's kids and not getting paid for it.65

The child care problem is going to get worse because who is going to want to do it? It is such a shit job.66

However, it was also stressed that while wages for child care workers should be legitimately increased, shifting those costs directly onto parents would further exacerbate issues of lack of availability or affordability of care. Submissions suggested it was important to:

Improve the pay, status and conditions of early childhood workers to match the duties and level of responsibility their work involves without transferring these costs to families. Currently child care workers' pay is not commensurate with the great responsibility of dependent infants and children. Given widely accepted international research on early childhood which highlights the importance of the early (particularly the first three) years in a child's development, high quality and well remunerated carers need to be attracted into the workforce.67

RECOMMENDATION 35:

That the Productivity Commission instigate an investigation into the Australian ECEC workforce with the aim of addressing shortages in the workforce, recommending ways in which the training and qualification requirements for employees working in children's services might be improved across the board, addressing perceived inequities in employee wages and working conditions and improving the status of children's services professionals.

Improved affordability for parents

The cost of child care was a problem repeatedly stressed to HREOC during our consultations

The cost of child care is incredible.68

The costs of child care vary substantially depending on the type of care being provided to children. The vast majority of informal care (91 per cent) is provided free of charge, while 95 per cent of parents using formal child care services pay fees.69 The average cost of formal care is $49.40 per week while parents using informal care pay an average of $5.80 per week.70 The highest costs are not surprisingly found in long day care where parents pay an average of $70.30 per week for an average of 18.4 hours care.71 Moreover, 81 900 children in long day care (25 per cent) are incurring costs of $100 or more per week.72

A recent bulletin produced by the AIHW indicated that while increasing levels of government assistance to parents using child care has had a significant impact on the costs of formal child care, gains in affordability since 1991 have been eroded by fee increases in excess of the CCB.73 The report found affordability was particularly an issue for sole parents who are studying and receiving Parenting Payment, and whose children are in centre-based long day care, who devote around twice as much of their net income to child care than other family types.

The study also suggested that the removal of operational subsidies for community based long day care centres in 1997 has resulted in greater increases in fee levels in these centres than in private centres.

Affordability of child care was emphasised by many people in HREOC's consultations with the community.

I still find child care prohibitively expensive here in Darwin.74

Child care is so expensive and the low rate of pay for child care workers indicates how valued or not the role of child care is in Australia. There was a push by the government for women to do family child care. Sole parents are already stretched and have varying amounts of support, if any support.75

Lack of affordable child care, higher expectations about the standard of living people want to live is what drives double income families. People make the decision whether her income is supplementary to the family income or essential to the family income.76

While individuals and organisations frequently cite the affordability of child care as a significant issue, it is interesting to note that recent research by the Australian National University's Centre for Economic Policy Research indicates that child care costs have a statistically insignificant effect on the decision by married mothers to work either full time or part time. This suggests that the subsidies paid to couple families using child care may have a limited role in increasing the mother's labour market activity.77

Submissions to HREOC back up the view that access to care, particularly at the point of return to work, may be a more critical issue for some parents than cost.

...the biggest hurdle in starting work was to secure a place in child care[:] 'The day care centre there was bursting at the seams. Once you got in you were fine, but waiting for a place is definitely an issue'.78

As previously mentioned, statistics on unmet demand for child care also suggest that there are many mothers who are not participating in the paid workforce at all as a result of being unable to secure child care. This is particularly so for some groups of mothers including sole parents, families on low incomes, parents with disability and families from non-English speaking backgrounds. While the Australian Government assists Indigenous and refugee children and children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds through the Bicultural Support Program and ISS (part of the IPSP), evidence presented to HREOC has highlighted that:

Families of CALD backgrounds also have to overcome barriers to access child care services, some of which are shared by the general population like the cost of child care, availability of this service. However, CALD families experience additional barriers to access child care like such as: understanding of how the system works, for some accepting the fact that the care of young children can be done outside the family context, English language competency, geographical isolation compounded by the lack of transport and being able to afford the cost of travelling, just to mention a few. Within this context often women of CALD backgrounds endure further disadvantage as the family prioritises who then may be able to first access English classes. Women decide to stay at home and care for the children. In this respect CALD families are faced with fewer (if any) choices.79

The lack of quality child care that is accessible, affordable and flexible is a serious barrier to economic participation for men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. The experience of many of Burnside's service users is that there are far too few conveniently situated child care places to make further education or work a reality for them. In order for sole parents or any other working parents to take up opportunities for training or even have the time to prepare job applications, child care is a necessity. However optimum child care placements are not always available, and even with assistance from government programs, are not affordable for families living in or on the edge of poverty.80

Some assistance is also available to parents participating in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) which is required to provide free child care while a participant is attending English language tuition. The cost of AMEP-related child care is the responsibility of the AMEP service provider.

Availability in regional areas

Particular difficulties in accessing child care are found in some rural and remote communities where it is often not financially viable for operators to provide mainstream child care services. People living a long distance from capital cities told HREOC that in remote communities, there can be pressure on employers to assist in the provision of child care, where few other services are available.

I know of two companies that are considering on site crèches. Quality child care is a problem. There is a family focus for organisations, I think they do want to try and do the right thing.81

The Australian Government announced in the 2004-2005 Budget that $365.8 million would be provided over the next four years with a particular focus on rural and remote areas.82 This included funding of $125.3 million over four years to expand the In-home Care Programme for families with no other child care options83 and funding for the Long Day Care Incentive Scheme to create more long-day care centres in rural and urban fringe areas of identified high unmet demand, each with places for young children under the age of three.84

It remains unclear what the long term impact of these programs has and will be over the life of the schemes in rural and remote communities.

The government has also recently largely addressed a further problem that was raised with HREOC in a submission from the Queensland Government.

The current allocation of Child Care Benefit subsidies also does not reflect the additional costs of providing care in rural and remote areas, and to children with additional needs and/or disabilities.

The capping of Child Care Benefit places in family day care and school age care has the effect of restricting growth in these sectors. Family day care in particular, is often a more flexible and affordable option for meeting the child care needs of families:

  • with a child (ren) with a disability;
  • with a child (ren) under two years of age;
  • living in rural and remote communities; and
  • where the parents work rotating and irregular shifts.

As many of these families continue to experience difficulty in accessing affordable child care, there is strong support in many areas for removal of the cap on the allocation of Child Care Benefit places for family day care and school age care.85

Flexibility of child care for long and irregular hours workers

The lack of flexibility in child care for long hours or shift workers has also been identified as a significant issue by a range of groups and individuals.

The opening and closing hours of child care centres are often inflexible and do not coincide with the sometimes long hours that lawyers work. Late fees are imposed for every hour that a lawyer is, for example, caught up with a client or in city traffic and delayed picking up their children.86

[N]either the 40 hour work week with its 9 to 5 and Monday to Friday distribution nor the 24-7 globalised economy are working conditions conducive to parents, especially given the rigid and limited schedules of child care centres, kindergartens, schools, etc. There are real structural issues that prevent parents from being able, as individuals, to achieve a better work-life balance and that also restrain employers in their attempts to help.87

The hours of child care available do not match up with the hours I would be required to work in many jobs eg the 24 hours rotating shiftwork jobs, night and weekend work.88

If you have a partner it's much easier to stay back at work. Child care finishes at five thirty and you have to be there to pick the child up. I always had to leave early to pick her up ... I missed out on hours of work. I was only paid by the hour (Juanita, 41, 1 child).89

It would be very difficult doing shift work. There's jobs that I've had that I wouldn't be able to do now, like when I was working with young disabled people 8 hour shifts over a 24 hours period seven days a week and I just wouldn't be able to get child care (Ann, 40, 1 child).90

...few child care centres reliably offer occasional care, or open after 6pm. This limits the option for flexible child care, essential for casual or temporary staff with irregular hours, or for students whose class timetable changes from term to term.91

The FaCSIA 2004 child care census found that of the 3 812 long day care services in Australia surveyed, only 21 were open at the weekend (16 private and 5 community long day care centres) and, of these services, eight operated on both Saturday and Sunday (5 private and 3 community long day care centres). In March 2004, there were two long day care centres open for 24 hours a day.92

Family day care also provides options for parents when long or irregular hours care is required. Around 7 per cent of children in family day care received care overnight between the hours of 6pm and 8am. In-home care services also provided extended hours of care, however, as might be expected in this more flexible form of service delivery, a much higher proportion of children (18 per cent) received overnight care.93

The National Family Day Care Council of Australia told us that the scheme provides benefits to:

Parents who are shiftworkers, who work in jobs where they are on call or who do relief work (eg nurses, police, hospitality etc). Work arrangements where the parent/s may require weekend and/ or overnight care. Family Day Carer[s] respond well in family emergencies. This flexibility enables the family to react and respond to their own changing environment - work and/or family.94

While there is no doubt that in-home and family day care go some way to addressing problems of availability for long hours and irregular hours care needs, and will be partially addressed through recent Budget initiatives to increase the number of family day care places available, there will still be demands for greater coverage by child care centres. The Australian Council for Educational Research has highlighted that the typical family day carer is a mother looking after four children and that in areas of high employment where the demand for care is highest, there are few stay-at-home mothers willing to care for other people's children.95

Integration of school and work hours and availability of outside school hours care

Other changes that would assist working parents include better integration of school hours and standard working hours, and holiday periods.96 One submission pointed out:

In all the debate I have heard about work/family balance I have heard nothing about reviewing school hours and weeks despite the fact they appears to have not changed in the 35 years since I started school and probably longer ... How can a woman work with 4 weeks leave and have kids at school which has 12-14 weeks leave - it is clearly impossible. The juggle, the struggle of our daily life could be massively improved by a serious rethink and realignment of school and work ... 97

At present some salaried workers are offered "purchased leave" which can be used to cover care for children in holiday periods.98 However, this option is by no means widespread or a solution to the disjuncture between school hours and term timetables and standard working hours. Many children and parents enjoy spending school holiday time together, but for many families restrictions on leave availability mean that this is not an option.

Parents told HREOC about needing:

[q]uality school holiday programs for primary school children. The ones that do run such programs are often full.99

Finding care for school aged children outside of school hours and during school holidays presents an even greater difficulty for many parents than care for preschool aged children and babies. Unless parents are employed at a school themselves, even part time working arrangements rarely align with school hours which are generally from 9am til 3pm. For children attending preschool or kindergarten programs, hours can often be even less well aligned with parents' working hours, with many services offering only part day or part week programs for preschool aged children.

In 2004 there were 2 137 outside school hours services and 1 340 vacation care services providing care to 227 056 children.100 Ninety seven per cent of parents using out of school hours care do so for work related purposes as do 93 per cent of parents using vacation care.101

Children using outside school hours care has increased substantially in recent years - between June 2002 and June 2005, the numbers of children using before and/or after school care increased by 33 per cent.102

The OECD has noted that although out of school care provision for children has not been a policy priority in many countries, demand is high, suggesting a need for countries to pay attention to the concept, organisation, funding and staffing of out of school hours care.103

With most parents being able to access four weeks annual leave, there is already a shortfall in terms of the parents' capacity to care for children during the school holidays, which is of course substantially exacerbated in sole parent families. In the 12 months to June 2005, 258 500 children attended vacation care, which amounts to 14 per cent of children aged 4-11 attending school. Around 16 per cent of children in couple families where both parents worked attended vacation care compared to 26 per cent of children in sole parent families where the parent was employed.104

This creates real difficulties for many parents and may result in school aged children being left with inadequate supervision.

There are two children in my street aged 6 and 9 whose parents locked them in the gate because they couldn't afford child care in the school holidays.105

Outside school hours care is also rarely available to children beyond primary school age. While there are no national restrictions on the ages of children accessing CCB approved services and child age limits determined by individual services, there is an obvious gap emerging for many families with parents in paid work. For parents of young high school children, there are often no options at all for formal care. For this age group when children can still require care and supervision, informal care or no adult care at all is frequently the only option.

RECOMMENDATION 36:

That State and Territory governments introduce a scheme of financial incentives for primary and secondary schools to introduce outside school hours activities with the aim of enabling all schools to be able to offer education and care to school aged children under the age of 16 during the hours of 8 am - 6 pm.

RECOMMENDATION 37:

That Australian, State and Territory governments offer coordinated grant based funding for community based organisations, schools and children's services to establish innovative projects which provide age appropriate activities for high school aged children and young people before and after school and during school holidays.

7.6 Making early childhood education and care services more accessible for parents and children with disability

Article 23 of CRC confirms the right of children with disability to actively participate in community life in a normal and self-reliant manner. The Disability Discrimination Act further makes it unlawful to discriminate against people, including children, with an illness or disability in the provision of goods and services and in educational facilities. This includes child care services. The Disability Discrimination Act also protects associates of people with a disability such as family, friends or carers.

The Disability Standards for Education 2005, established under the Disability Discrimination Act, also are intended to provide students with disability the same rights as other students. The Standards give students and prospective students with disability the right to education and training opportunities on the same basis as students without disability. This includes the right to comparable access, services and facilities and the right to participate in education and training unimpeded by discrimination. Such rights are not merely formal and education providers are under a positive obligation to make changes to reasonably accommodate the needs of a student with disability.106 The Standard also requires educational institutions to make reasonable adjustments for children with disability in consultation with their parent or carer.107

However, HREOC has been told:

The lack of child care and before and after-school care that will enrol children with disability prevents many women from being able to seek work. For women with disability, it is almost impossible to find child care and before and after-school care that is both accessible to them and that will enrol their children with disability.108

The OECD estimates that around 15-20 per cent of children have specific educational needs at some stage during their schooling.109

It is generally accepted that children with physical, intellectual and learning disabilities should be mainstreamed into early care and education services which can be encouraged by providing priority of access and increasing resources to allow additional staff support for children with disability.110 Early intervention for children with disability aims to strengthen the sensory-motor, emotional, social and cognitive development of children with specific needs with preventative intervention having been shown to be generally more effective than rehabilitation measures in later life. However, as People with Disability Australia made clear in their submission to HREOC:

This situation is especially difficult if the child ... has a disability as many child care centres and outside school hours care options will not accept children with disability or will impose conditions on their enrolment. While this may constitute discrimination, women with disability may not pursue a complaint, deciding that it's not worth the time and effort involved, and it does not address the immediate need for child care.

Until 1 July 2006, the Special Needs Subsidy Scheme (SNSS) provided funding for additional staff in child care services to work with children who have very high support needs. This scheme has now been recast as the IPSP.111 A recent study of NSW child care services found that a range of difficulties remained for services wishing to access SNSS funds and for parents hoping to use the scheme. These difficulties included complex application processes for multiple sources of government funding, the need to obtain specific medical and professional diagnoses for children, obtaining and keeping competent and confident staff, concerns about duty of care, concerns about the added responsibilities of enrolling a child with disability, maintaining adequate staffing ratios, lack of access to specialist advice and coordinating all the services involved which took carers away from direct time with children.112

The Australian Government has attempted to address many of these concerns through the recent changes to the scheme. The IPSP aims to increase the recruitment and retention of staff through skill development, 67 regionally based Inclusion Support Agencies and individual facilitators to work with child care services in areas such as training, planning and sourcing specialist equipment, while the ISS provides funding to increase staff numbers.113 Nonetheless, issues of access for children and their parents with disability were repeatedly raised with HREOC and it remains to be seen whether the recent changes to the scheme will address these difficulties.

The Disability Council of NSW highlighted some further issues for parents with disability:

The disability service system is frequently found to be inflexible and inadequate in meeting women's disability-related needs so that they can astutely perform and balance the roles of mother, 'carer' and/or employee. Furthermore the lack of control women can exercise over support, personal assistance or transport arrangements, because of the inflexibility of the service system, restricts the commitments they can make to paid work. People who rely on family members to provide this support will be similarly constrained. To add inflexible, inaccessible child care arrangements to this mix (assuming that affordable child care were available), renders the feasibility for paid work for parents with disability even more remote.

An inflexible and unreliable service system also impacts on the balance of paid work and family responsibilities because of the lack of portability of many disability-related programs and services between or within states and territories. This necessarily restricts the movement of families reliant on these supports. While a move may be required to meet paid or unpaid work commitments, it may be impossible without the guarantee of basic support services to meet disability-related needs in a new location.114

The Council further noted that:

Greater assistance to women to support them in their roles as mothers, workers, and/or 'carers' is needed. This includes adequate, accessible, available, affordable and flexible child care. This also includes similarly structured disability-related services.115

RECOMMENDATION 38:

That Australian ECEC services be required to comply with Disability Standards for Education 2005 as a prerequisite for federal funding such as Child Care Benefit (CCB).

7.7 Integration of child care and early childhood education

Submissions to HREOC supported the need for better integration of child care and early childhood education, with a national, shared approach based around accessible quality care. Business and Professional Women Australia wrote:

Child care and schooling provision needs to be changed to recognise that both schooling education and child care are intrinsically linked and should work in partnerships at local levels.116

In June 2005, 257 100 Australian children aged zero to five years attended preschools, the majority (76 per cent) of whom were four years old.117 It should also be noted that many children access preschool education through CCB approved long day care centres, particularly in those States and Territories where preschool is not widely available such as NSW. It is difficult to assess how many children in long day care are participating in preschool education programs but as a rough estimate, 92 200 four and five year olds attend long day care, although there is no obligation on centres to hire qualified early childhood teachers in all centres or provide a formal preschool program.118

Funding of preschools is a State and Territory responsibility, however where a child is in a long day care preschool program parents can receive CCB and preschools can also seek registered care status, allowing parents who are working or looking for work, studying or training to access the minimum rate of CCB.

Few children attend preschool on a full time basis with the majority attending two or three days per week (37 and 33 per cent respectively), with less than seven per cent attending five days per week. Hours of operation for preschools are much more limited than many other forms of care for children of this age and of all children attending preschool, only eight per cent attended preschool for twenty hours or more per week.119

This has significant implications for parents trying to balance their child care commitments with their paid work - in families with children attending preschool only nine per cent of couple families and less than two per cent of sole parents with preschool children were employed full time.120

There is clear evidence supporting the short and long term benefits of high quality preschool programs for children, particularly in respect of educational progress, labour market outcomes, welfare dependency and decreases in anti-social behaviour.121 Many organisations support an integrated system of child care and early childhood education because of its benefits for children as well as its benefits for parents balancing their paid work and family/carer responsibilities.122

Longitudinal studies have shown that early childhood education is linked with positive outcomes for children's development, including improving cognitive development and social behaviour such as independence, cooperation and relationships with other children. By contrast, children with limited or no preschool experience have poorer cognitive development, sociability and concentration when they begin school.123 These differences exist even after taking account of different child, family and environmental characteristics, with children from disadvantaged backgrounds receiving particular benefits from early childhood education. Australian longitudinal research has shown that attendance in child care with an educational focus is associated with higher learning scores.124 Integrated care, that is, where education is combined with child care, promotes better outcomes for children according to a recent UK longitudinal study.125

While responsibility for preschool remains with the States and Territories, the Australian Government has identified the need for "access for all children to quality early learning experiences, especially in the year before formal school entry" which can assist in a "successful transition to school for all children, but especially those children from disadvantaged backgrounds, a more coherent approach to care, education and family support and earlier identification of children at risk of developmental or behavioural problems".126

However, the availability of preschool education remains patchy across Australia, both from a geographic perspective and in terms of the socio-economic circumstances of families who are able to access preschool services and, as a result, concerns continue about the equity of current arrangements for preschool education. Provision of public preschool education varies widely across States and Territories and as a result not all children have equal access to the good start in life that early childhood education provides.127 Parents who cannot access public preschools or afford private preschools must rely on their various other child care arrangements, including informal care or long day care, which may or may not incorporate elements of preschool programs.

Preschool participation tends to increase in line with household income ranging from 49 per cent of four year olds in households in the lowest income group to 66 per cent of households in the highest.128 The ABS has also noted that Indigenous children were less likely to be attending preschool as were children from non-English speaking backgrounds.129 Preschool participation rates also vary according to where children live, with a participation rate for four year olds of 57.7 per cent in major cities falling to 42.6 per cent in very remote communities.130

The implications of these disparities are clear. A system which provides ECEC services in a haphazard manner may not only may increase inequity between parents as carers trying to balance their paid work and family/carer responsibilities, it may further disadvantage already vulnerable children. Children who miss out on early learning experiences are more likely to fall behind in developmental milestones and be less prepared for school.

Governments have recently begun to recognise the importance of a coordinated implementation of ECEC services - a key priority identified in the February 2006 COAG agreement was increasing the proportion of children entering school with basic skills for life and learning.131

However, further and more concrete action must be taken. The Australian Government has recently put forward suggestions that a plan would be put to COAG to consider funding free preschool education from within existing preschools and long day care centres for all Australian four years olds, however a final proposal is yet to be publicly released.132

It is worth noting that Australian provision of early childhood education falls substantially behind many comparable countries - in New Zealand, the government appointed a working party in 1999 to develop a strategic plan for early childhood and has recently made a commitment to fund 20 hours per week of free early education for all three and four year old children by 2007.133

Similarly, in the UK all four year olds have been entitled to a free early education place since 1998 and from April 2004 this entitlement was extended to all three year olds. The introduction of a comprehensive national child care strategy in 2004, in combination with the Sure Start program targeting disadvantaged children, has seen 96 per cent of three year olds and all four year old children in England taking up their entitlement to free part time preschool education.134 The existing minimum entitlement amounts to 12.5 hours a week of free early education for all three to four year olds which increased from 33 weeks to 38 weeks from 1 April 2006, and will be extended to 15 hours a week by 2010 with a goal of 20 hours per week.135

RECOMMENDATION 39:

That the Australian Government with the cooperation of the States and Territories develop a framework for a national preschool year of education for all four year old children in Australia as a matter of urgency.

7.8 Paid work and family consequences of the cost and availability of child care

Parents clearly indicated to HREOC the ways in which child care costs and availability had had a direct impact on their and their partner's decisions to stay in the paid workforce after having children.

My wife wants to return to work when the next bub is two. But, we can not do this in Canberra with the cost and availability of child care.136

Employers, as well as employees are aware of this dilemma.

Governments should recognise that improved access of child care facilities would have a direct and identifiable impact on work and family balance. With full time child care fees, equating to a second mortgage, it is not financially viable for some women to work, particularly those in the middle income bracket or those in positions maintaining relevant skill. With adequate child-care assistance, a percentage of paid maternity leave would have little impact on women's choice to have children.137

Some employers may be in a position to assist staff with child care by providing the service directly, reserving or sponsoring places in existing services or using an agency to assist employees to find care.138

Qualitative research also indicates that child care is important not just to families' arrangements in respect of workforce participation, but to the decision to have a child or further children. Recent research from Monash University found that around a third of families indicated that the availability, affordability and quality of child care were factors they took into consideration when deciding to have a first or subsequent child.139 Again, submissions to HREOC back up this research.

... if I work my current schedule of eight days a fortnight and have two children in child care for those eight days, I will add $596 to my families' income. What really surprised me, however, was the disincentive to work eight days a fortnight, when I could halve my working time to four days a fortnight, bringing home $436 and only lose $160 a fortnight, or $40 a working day, in actual cash. And honestly, what mother in her right mind could justify leaving her babies in day care for ten hours a day to bring home $40 a day? Not this one, that is for sure. So my decision has been made for me - if I want another baby I will have to give up my career. What they forgot to tell us in school is though you may be prepared to do all the hard work to juggle a family and a career, "Having it All" just isn't economically feasible.140

A number of submissions recommended a national review of early childhood and child care funding and services in order to achieve this aim.141

The Work + Family Roundtable submission argued:

There is an urgent need to expand and improve the provision of child care for working Australian families. This includes the expansion and improvement of affordable preschool education, formal child care for 0-4 year olds and out of school care services for school aged children. The international evidence in support of quality early childhood education and care is strong and incontrovertible.142

HREOC supports this view that urgent action must be taken to address the issue of child care availability and accessibility.

RECOMMENDATION 40:

That the Australian Government with the cooperation of the States and Territories institute a comprehensive national review of ECEC services, grounded in a commitment to children's wellbeing, with the aim of:

  • ensuring that all children can access quality programs regardless of their socio-economic circumstances, geographic location or abilities;
  • establishing the extent of demand for ECEC services so as to provide a better planning framework for the establishment and accreditation of children's services;
  • providing greater options for families for non-standard hours child care services;
  • ensuring that the funding formula and mode of payment most effectively reflect the needs of children; and
  • improving affordability for working parents.

7.9 Conclusion

The provision of ECEC services in Australia is a key element of allowing working parents to balance their paid work and family/carer responsibilities. This point has been made to HREOC again and again in our consultations and in the submissions we received.

Government support and regulation of ECEC services sets the framework within which families are able to access, or not access, these services. While many parents benefit from informal care and support from family or friends, this is unavailable for many others as grandparents remain in the paid workforce for longer or live long distances away. Australian, State and Territory governments must together address outstanding issues of access and equity in the provision of ECEC services for the benefit of Australian families.

There is a clear body of evidence to support increasing government expenditure on ECEC as a cost-effective public policy intervention which not only increases parents' labour market attachment and socio-economic status, but enhances children's development, mediates against risk and improves their wellbeing.


Footnotes

[1] This chapter does, however, contain summary information about the provision of child care and other care services (the Striking the Balance discussion paper did not contain detailed information in these areas).

[2] HREOC Focus group 15, January 2006

[3] HREOC Focus group 15, January 2006

[4] HREOC Focus group 15, January 2006

[5] HREOC Focus group 10, August 2005.

[6] HREOC Focus group 10, August 2005.

[7] Joe Tucci, Janise Mitchell and Chris Goddard Every Child Needs a Hero: A report tracking Australian children's concerns and attitudes about childhood Australian Childhood Foundation Melbourne July 2006, p 13.

[8] Joe Tucci, Janise Mitchell and Chris Goddard The Concerns of Australian Parents Australian

Childhood Foundation and the National Research Centre for the Prevention of Child

Abuse, Melbourne March 2004, p 11 and Joe Tucci, Janise Mitchell and Chris Goddard The Changing Face of Parenting: Exploring the attitudes of parents in contemporary Australia Australian Childhood Foundation and the National Research Centre for the Prevention of Child Abuse Melbourne April 2005, p 13.

[9] Frances Press What About the Kids? Policy directions for improving the experiences of infants and young children in a changing world NSW Commission for Children and Young People, Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian and National Investment for the Early Years (NIFTeY) 2006, p 6.

[10] ibid, p 10.

[11] See Graham Vimpani, George Patton and Alan Hayes "The Relvance of Child and Adolescent Development for Outcomes in Education, Health and Life Success" in Children's Health and Development: New research directions for Australia Research report No 8 Australian Institute of Family Studies Melbourne 2002, pp 23-24; Lieselotte Ahnert and Michael Lamb "Child Care and its Impact on Young Children (2-5)" Encyclopaedia on Early Childhood Development Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development Montreal 2004, pp 1-6; and Peter S Cook, Submission 169 and Submission 181 (Supplementary). See also Striking the Balance discussion paper pp 59-62.

[12] Frances Press What About the Kids? Policy directions for improving the experiences of infants and young children in a changing world NSW Commission for Children and Young People, Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian and National Investment for the Early Years (NIFTeY) 2006, p 11.

[13] James J Heckman "The Economics of Investing in Early Childhood" Address to the NIFTeY Conference Prevention: Invest now or pay later Reducing the risk of poorer life outcomes by

intervention in the early years University of NSW Sydney 8 February 2006.

[14] OECD Starting Strong: Early childhood education and care OECD Paris 2001, p 11.

[15] See discussion in section 7.7.

[16] See Article 18 (2). See also discussion of CRC in Chapter 1 (section 1.3) and Chapter 3 (section 3.2).

[17] See Article 18(2) UNICEF Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Revised Ed) 2002.

[18] ibid, p 243. See also Human Rights Committee General Comment 17 1989 (UN Doc HRI/GEN/1/Rev 5, 133) in which the Committee states, in relation to Article 17 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which is similar to Article 18 of CRC, that "since it is quite common for the father and mother to be gainfully employed outside the home, reports by States Parties should indicate how society, social institutions and the State are discharging their responsibility to assist the family in ensuring the protection of the child".

[19] See Article 18(2) UNICEF Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Revised Ed) 2002, p 250.

[20] ibid, p 253.

[21] Including Special Child Care Benefit to families where a child is at serious risk of abuse or neglect or in exceptional cases where they cannot afford care and Grandparent Child Care Benefit to eligible grandparents providing care: Australian Government Department of Families Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Child Care Service Handbook 2006-2007 Australian Government Canberra at www.facsia.gov.au/childcare/handbook2006-07/index.

[22] Alison Elliot Early Childhood Education: Pathways to quality and equity for all children Australian Council for Educational Research Press 2006, p 1.

[23] Productivity Commission Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision Report on Government Services 2006 Australian Government Canberra 2006, p 14.7.

[24] It should be noted that these OECD figures do not include all expenditure on ECEC, in particular, this does not include Australian expenditure on cash benefits to families which is among the highest in the OECD: OECD Starting Strong II: Early childhood education and care OECD Paris 2006, pp 104-105.

[25] ibid, p 105.

[26] ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 3.

[27] In-home care is available where a family cannot access an existing child care service, or their circumstances mean that an existing service cannot meet their needs. Families may be eligible if:

the parent/s or child has an illness or disability, they live in a rural or remote area, the parent/s work shift work or non-standard hours, they have had a multiple birth and/or have more than two children not yet attending school or where a breastfeeding mother is working from home: Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Child Care Service Handbook 2006-2007 Australian Government Canberra 2006 at www.facsia.gov.au/childcare/handbook2006-07/index.

[28] ibid. A number of different services such as long day care and outside school hours care operate from the same location:

[29] These include innovative and mobile services (for children in rural and remote areas),

Multifunctional Aboriginal Children's Services, Indigenous playgroups, Indigenous outside school hours care and enrichment programs and JET crèches: Australian Government Department of Families Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Child Care Service Handbook 2006-2007 Australian Government Canberra at www.facsia.gov.au/childcare/handbook2006-07/index

[30] AMP/NATSEM The Costs of Caring in Australia 2002-2005 AMP/NATSEM Income and Wealth Report Issue 13 AMP Sydney May 2006, p 1.

[31] See discussion of paid leave entitlements in Chapter 4 (section 4.7).

[32] Women's Action Alliance, Submission 85, p 10.

[33] Women Lawyers Association of NSW Inc, Submission 112, p 4.

[34] COTA National Seniors Partnership, Submission 40, pp 4-5.

[35] See Chapter 4, section 4.9 in particular.

[36] Employer consultation, Darwin, 22 September 2005.

[37] Independent Education Union of Australia, Submission 159, p 7.

[38] Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia, Submission 108, pp 8-9.

[39] In September 2005 there were 325 000 Australians who wanted to work but were neither actively looking for work nor available to start work within four weeks. Of these, 69 per cent were women, and 44 per cent reported their main activity as "home duties or caring for children": ABS Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia September 2005 Cat No 6220.0 March 2006, pp 19-20.

[40] Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Portfolio Budget Statements 2004-05 (FaCSIA) Budget Related Paper No 1.8 Commonwealth of Australia Canberra 2003, p 31.

[41] Outside-pocket expenses are total child care fees for approved care, less the actual CCB entitlement: Australian Taxation Office 30% Child Care Tax Rebate Instructions and Transfer Advice for Individuals Australian Government Canberra 2006.

[42] The ISS is part of the integrated Inclusion and Professional Support Program (IPSP) and assists eligible child care services to improve their capacity to include children with ongoing high support needs. From 1 July 2006, the ISS replaced the Special Needs Subsidy Scheme (SNSS) and the Disabled Supplementary Services Payment (DSUPS).

[43] Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs The New Child Care Inclusion and Professional Support Program brochure FaCSIA Australian Government Canberra.

[44] Changes to CCQA announced in May 2006 and designed to improve Quality Assurance processes now include unannounced validation visits, unannounced spot checks and non-peer validators: The Hon Mal Brough MP Child care overhaul to boost quality Media Release 18 May 2006.

[45] Australian Council of Social Service Fair Start: 10-point plan for early childhood education and care ACOSS Info 383 ACOSS Strawberry Hills February 2006, p 3.

[46] ABS Family Characteristics Australia June 2003 Cat No 4442.0 September 2004, p 34.

[47] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia's Welfare 2005 AIHW Canberra 2006, p 114.

[48] ibid, p 108.

[49] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia's Welfare 2005 AIHW Canberra 2006, p116.

[50] 188 400 in June 2005, which represents 5.6 per cent of all children in the survey: ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 8 and p 16. It should also be noted that this figure represents a need for additional care over a four week period which in almost a third of cases was as little as one day over the four week period: ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 31.

[51] ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 8.

[52] ibid, p 32.

[53] ibid, p 33.

[54] NSW Commission for Children and Young People, Submission 175, p 7. See also Independent Education Union of Australia, Submission 159, p 7.

[55] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia's Welfare 2005 AIHW Canberra 2006, p 94.

[56] Glenda Sinclair-Gordon, follow up email to Employer Consultation, Brisbane, 27 September 2005.

[57] HREOC Focus group 6, February 2005.

[58] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Trends in the affordability of child care services 1991-2004 AIHW Bulletin 35 Australian Government Canberra April 2006, p 13.

[59] Community consultation, Darwin, 22 September 2005.

[60] People with Disability Australia, Submission 104, p 6.

[61] Australian Government Budget Paper No 2 Part 2 Expense Measures Families Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Australian Government Canberra 2005, p 211.

[62] Alison Elliot Early Childhood Education: Pathways to quality and equity for all children Australian Council for Educational Research Press 2006, p 17.

[63] National Association of Community Based Children's Services Costello once again abandons child care to the market Media Release 10 May 2006.

[64] Community consultation, Darwin, 22 September 2005.

[65] Employer consultation, Darwin, 22 September 2005.

[66] Union consultation, Hobart, 11 August 2005.

[67] Premier's Council for Women (SA), Submission 96, p 17.

[68] HREOC Focus group 9, July 2005.

[69] ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 6.

[70] ibid, p 22.

[71] ibid, p 22 and p 17.

[72] ibid, p 22.

[73] Australian Institute for Health and Welfare Trends in the Affordability of Child Care Services 1991-2004 AIHW Bulletin 35 Australian Government Canberra April 2006, p 12.

[74] Community consultation, Darwin, 22 September 2005.

[75] Community consultation, Perth, 13 September 2005.

[76] Union consultation, Perth, 14 September 2005.

[77] Anu Rammohan and Stephen Whelan Child Care Costs and the Employment Status of Married Australian Mothers Australian National University Centre for Economic Policy Research Discussion Paper No 517 ANU Canberra April 2006, p ii.

[78] Kathryn Harrison, cited in Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Submission 33.

[79] Queensland Council of Social Services Inc, Submission 62.

[80] UnitingCare Burnside, Submission 100.

[81] Community consultation, Kalgoorlie, 25 September 2005.

[82] Australian Government Regional Partnerships For Growth And Security 2004-05 Budget Statement By the Hon John Anderson MP, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell and the Hon De-Anne Kelly MP May 2004 Australian Government Canberra, p 14.

[83] Care is provided in the child's home by an approved carer and is only available to families with no other child care options including: families in rural and remote Australia; families working non-standard hours such as police, fire fighters, ambulance, nurses, doctors, and security personnel; families with multiple children under school age; and families where either the parent or child has a chronic or terminal illness: Australian Government Regional Partnerships For Growth And Security 2004-05 Budget Statement By the Hon John Anderson MP, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell and the Hon De-Anne Kelly MP May 2004 Australian Government Canberra, pp 81-82.

[84] The Long Day Care Incentive Scheme provides short term incentive funding to ensure a service provider's viability while they build their client base and utilisation rates to sustainable levels. The target is the creation of at least 25 new long day care centres offering at least 1 000 places. Community and private providers are able to apply for assistance to establish new long day care centres in rural, remote and urban fringe areas of high, unmet demand for child care: Australian Government Regional Partnerships For Growth And Security 2004-05 Budget Statement By the Hon John Anderson MP, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell and the Hon De-Anne Kelly MP May 2004 Australian Government Canberra 2004, pp 81-82.

[85] Queensland Government, Submission 166, p 67.

[86] Women Lawyers' Association of New South Wales, Submission 112, p 20.

[87] Nadine Zacharias, Submission 53, p 4.

[88] Julia, Submission 16, p 2.

[89] Respondent of a study by E McInnes (2001) cited in the submission to the Standing Committee on Family and Human Services, National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children, Submission 86, p 6.

[90] ibid.

[91] YWCA Australia, Submission 93.

[92] Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2004 Australian Government Census of Child Care Services summary bookletFaCSIA Canberra 2005, p 10.

[93] ibid, p 10.

[94] National Family Day Care Council of Australia. Submission 92.

[95] Justine Ferrari "Daycare boom 'may compromise quality' - Budget 2006" The Australian 12 May 2006.

[96] Ann Villiers, Submission 41 and Shona Guilfoyle, Submission 176.

[97] Shona Guilfoyle, Submission 176.

[98] Purchased leave is a form of unpaid leave where the loss of income for the specified time is spread over an employee's yearly salary. This form of leave is most commonly available in the public sector.

[99] HREOC Focus group 10, August 2005.

[100] Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2004 Australian Government Census of Child Care Services summary bookletFaCSIA Canberra 2005, p 10.

[101] ibid, p 10 and 15.

[102] ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 3.

[103] OECD Starting Strong: Early childhood education and care OECD Paris 2001 p 48.

[104] ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 9.

[105] Community consultation, Darwin, 22 September 2005.

[106] Preschools and kindergartens are bound by the Standards, however child care services are not: Disability Standards for Education 2005 p 7.

[107] ibid, p 10.

[108] People with Disability Australia, Submission 104, p 6.

[109] OECD Starting Strong: Early childhood education and care OECD Paris 2001, p 58.

[110] This is not only in relation to the developmental needs of children but relates to the right to education set out in the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons in Schedule 5 of the Human Rights And Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

[111] See mention of the IPSP in section 7.4.

[112] Gwynneth Llewellyn, Kirsty Thompson and Mathew Fante "Inclusion in Early Childhood Services: Ongoing challenges" (2002) 27 Australian Journal of Early Childhood 3, pp 18-23.

[113] Australian Government Department of Families Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Child Care Inclusion and Professional Support Program at http://www.facsia.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/childcare/services-ipsp.htm

[114] Disability Council of NSW, Submission 76, pp 3-4.

[115] ibid, p 5.

[116] Business and Professional Women Australia, Submission 109, p 2.

[117] ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 39.

[118] Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs 2004 Australian Government Census of Child Care ServicesFaCSIA Canberra, p 32 and 54.

[119] ABS Child Care Australia June 2005 Cat No 4402.0 May 2006, p 40.

[120] ibid, p 41. Note: ABS data show that 1.7 per cent preschool parents were sole parents and were employed full time - this estimate has a relative standard error of 25-50 per cent and should be used with caution.

[121] A recent report by Tony Vinson The Education and Care of Our Children: Good beginnings University of Sydney 2006 cites a range of international longitudinal studies demonstrating substantial and favourable long term results from preschool education (p 4) including: Lynne Karoly, Rebecca Kilburn and Jill Cannon Early Childhood Interventions Proven Results, Future Promise RAND Corporation Santa Monica March 2005; and Lawrence J Schweinhart "Summary, Conclusions, and Frequently Asked Questions" in Lifetime Effects: The high/scope perry preschool study through age 40 High/Scope Press 2005.

[122] See, for example, Kathy Walker National Pre-School Education Inquiry: "For all our children"Australian Education Union Victoria 2004; Michaela Kroneman The Western Australian Model of Preschool Education Australian Education Union Victoria 2001; OECD Country Note Early Childhood in Australia, November 2001; and ACOSS Fair Start: 10-point plan for early childhood education and care ACOSS Info 383 February 2006.

[123] See, for example, Kathy Sylva, Edward Melhuish, Pam Sammons, Iram Siraj-Blatchford, Brenda Taggart and Karen Elliot The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project: Findings from the pre-school period Summary findings Institute of Education University of London 2003; Bridie Raban Just the Beginning... Research Evaluation Branch International Analysis and Evaluation Division Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs December 2000; and Growing Up In Australia: The longitudinal study of Australian children 2004 Annual Report Australian Institute of Family Studies Melbourne 2005, p 19.

[124] Growing Up In Australia: The longitudinal study of Australian children 2004 Annual report Australian Institute of Family Studies Melbourne 2005, p 19.

[125] Kathy Sylva, Edward Melhuish, Pam Sammons, Iram Siraj-Blatchford, Brenda Taggart and Karen Elliot The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project: Findings from the pre-school period Summary findings Institute of Education, University of London, 2003, p 2.

[126] Commonwealth Task Force on Child Development, Health and Wellbeing Towards the Development of a National Agenda for Early Childhood Consultation Paper Commonwealth of Australia Canberra 2003, p 6.

[127] This appears to be particularly the case for children with specific needs, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Indigenous children. See Kathy Walker National Pre-School Education Inquiry: 'For all our children' Australian Education Union Victoria 2004, p10. The recent Productivity Commission report also demonstrates the wide variation in provision: Productivity Commission Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision Report on Government Services 2006 Australian Government Canberra, p 14.12.

[128] ABS Australian Social Trends 2004 Article: Participation in Education: Attending Preschool Cat No 4102.0 June 2004, p 3.

[129] 45.9 per cent of Indigenous four year olds attended preschool compared to 56.9 per cent of non-Indigenous children as did 49 per cent of children who spoke a language other than English at home, compared to 57.6 per cent of children speaking English at home: ABS Australian Social Trends 2004 Article: Participation in Education: Attending Preschool Cat No. 4102.0 June 2004, p 1.

[130] ABS Australian Social Trends 2004 Article: Participation in Education: Attending Preschool Cat No 4102.0 June 2004, p 2.

[131] The Council of Australian Governments' Meeting 10 February 2006 Communique (p 3) noted: "the importance of all children having a good start to life. Opportunities to improve children's life chances, especially for children born into disadvantaged families, exist well before children begin school, and even before birth. High quality and integrated early childhood education and care services, encompassing the period from prenatal up to and including the transition to the first years of school, are critical to increasing the proportion of children entering school with the basic skills for life and learning. COAG will give priority to improving early childhood development outcomes, as a part of a collaborative national approach".

[132] See for example ABC Radio "Free Preschool Plan Welcomed" PM 23 March 2006 at www.abc.net.au/pm.

[133] Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister of New Zealand and Hon Trevor Mallard Minister of Education Free early childhood education to be extended Media Statement 22 August 2005 New Zealand Labour Party Press Release.

[134] Department for Education and Skills Provision For Children Under Five Years Of Age In England: January 2006 (Provisional) April 2006 SFR 17/2006.

[135] HM Treasury, Department of Trade and Industry, Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Education and Skills Choice for Parents, the Best Start for Children: A ten year strategy for child care December 2004 HM Treasury London 2004, p 1.

[136] Respondent in untitled survey on work and family balance, cited in Community and Public Sector Union, Submission 90, p 12.

[137] Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, Submission 179, p 6.

[138] See Chapter 6 (section 6.10) for a discussion of FBT and employer provided child care.

[139] JaneMaree Maher, Maryanne Dever, Jennifer Curtin and Andrew Singleton What Women (And Men) Want School of Political and Social Inquiry Monash University September 2004, p 14.

[140] Natalie Morton, Submission 65.

[141] Business and Professional Women Australia, Submission 109 and Work + Family Policy Roundtable, Submission 102, p 9.

[142] Work + Family Policy Roundtable, Submission 102, p 9.

July 31, 2009

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