Childcare subsidy increase welcomed by Bendigo family to help household budget

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A couple with two young children in regional Victoria say changes to the Early Years Grant will give them greater flexibility to work the hours they want.

Jonathan Astrand-Ferris and his wife Georgia are raising Alfred, 3, and Frances, four months, in Bendigo, central Victoria.

They say getting an increased grant from July next year will mean they can budget a little easier amid the rising cost of living.

“I work full time and Georgia would like to work at least three or four days a week,” Mr. Astrand-Ferris said.

“With the changes now, it’s not really necessary to think about whether she can go back to work or not. It’s more natural that she can if she wants to.”

Keira Reilly and Tessa Fitt, 2, play with building blocks.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)

Income-weighted subsidy

Under the new legislation, all families would see their child care subsidy rate increase unless their total income is $530,000 or more.

Families earning up to $80,000 will be reimbursed 90% of their first child’s tuition before that proportion drops by 1% for each additional $5,000 earned.

Mr Astrand-Ferris’ son has attended Jenny’s Early Learning Center at Bendigo Health for the past two years and next year will be joined by his younger sister.

He said his son, Alfred, has become more confident and social due to his time in childcare.

He said he and his wife had to look into the cost of childcare after having their second child.

“Maybe we should have made the switch to not put Francis in so many days or get Alfie out and stay home,” he said.

Jenny’s Early Learning Center chief executive Darren Reid said his organization offers families a lifetime price guarantee.

“So our families never see an increase in their costs throughout the journey they accompany [us],” he said.

Operators say the sector is benefiting

Mr Reid said the increased grant would remove financial barriers that prevent children from accessing quality care and education.

He said the subsidy would also create a bigger gap between revenues and expenses for childcare operators.

Smiling man, short black hair, wears black branded hoodie, stands in front of wall with tree, birds, our core philosophy.
Darren Reid says the increased grant will help remove some of the financial barriers.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)

“Combined with increased federal government subsidies, we will see over 95% of our families continue to be better off,” Mr. Reid said.

Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters said around 5,000 families in Bendigo would be better off under the new plan.

She said a family earning $120,000 with a child in early education and care would earn over $1,700.

But the Federal Opposition said it was seriously concerned about the pressures Labor legislation would put on the sector.

“Labour’s plan for childcare will see prices skyrocket,” a spokesman said.

“The last time they were in power, prices went up 53% in just six years.”

Ms Chesters said the fee structure would continue to be based on center fees, parents’ income and then the percentage they get back.

Child care under the microscope

Ms Chesters said childcare costs had risen by 41% over the past eight years.

A lady in red and a toddler are playing with building blocks.
Haizley Height plays with building blocks with Lisa Chesters.(ABC News: Tyrone Dalton)

Changes to the Child Care Subsidy will begin on July 1 next year.

The Federal Government’s 12-month investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into the rising cost of childcare will begin in January at a proposed cost of $10.8 million.

The federal opposition said the inquiry would not report until late next year and families could not wait until 2024.

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