Doorstop interview, Canberra
Topics: Crackdown on dodgy family day care providers
Question: Can you just explain to us some of these breaches and how they’re happening?
Simon Birmingham: This is appalling behaviour, where people are claiming subsidies for children who aren’t in care, who don’t exist, or who are overseas. So we’ve taken the action to really clamp down and make sure that only the most reputable child care providers are in the system offering care to our kids.
Question: And this is obviously happening- these are child care centres that are doing this, how are they getting away with it?
Simon Birmingham: Well sadly, we inherited a system that was light on checks and poor in terms of the way regulation was structured. We’ve strengthened that regulation over time. Under Labor, there were just a few hundred checks a year and no cancellations. Under us, we’re undertaking 4000 plus checks and we’ve been cancelling services – 150 different actions against services – and we have a number of people facing prosecution.
Question: How will this affect families? I mean, as some of those places close down, where will those kids go? Will there be new centres open? Will new people take them over?
Simon Birmingham: I’m confident, based on our consultations with the child care sector, that there are many surplus places around, but most importantly our new child care system is going to give more support to families, as well as investment certainty to child care providers to create the places where they’re needed.
Question: How is it affecting families now? Are they missing out on spots because of this fraudulent behaviour?
Simon Birmingham: No. Look, we believe that families have overwhelmingly, where necessary, adapted to being supported in terms of access to other service providers if that’s required.
Question: So how will you put a stop to this now happening again?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we’ve undertaken this integrity surge to make sure the system is cleaned up ahead of the 2 July start of the Turnbull Government’s New Child Care Subsidy arrangements, which also provide for better scrutiny and oversight in terms of the way we’ve structured that model of new child care subsidy.
Question: Senator, are there still many families to register for the New Child Care Subsidy?
Simon Birmingham: Well, more than 900,000 Australian families have made the switch already and we’re thrilled that there’s been such extensive take-up. Of course, the message is still register before 2 July to make sure there is no disruption to your payments.
Question: Some childhood educators feel the policy focuses heavily on getting parents into the workforce and not on providing quality early education for young children. What’s your response to that?
Simon Birmingham: The Turnbull Government’s absolutely focused on ensuring that the greatest amount of child care support goes to families working the longest hours and those earning the lowest incomes and we think that is a fair approach. That’s what Australians expect their taxpayer dollars to be used for. But in terms of early childhood education, we also support universal access to preschool for all children. A strong safety net in our child care program that ensures two sessions of care should be available to children in very low income families and of course particular additional care for children at risk.
Question: Labor has said that some children might be missing out on early education. What’s the government’s view on that?
Simon Birmingham: Well, universal access to preschool ensures that early childhood education is available to all children and our Child Care Subsidy ensures that families can access a fair system. The activity test is only four hours a week on average and people can volunteer to study, train, work, care, look for work to meet the activity test. It’s a pretty light touch
Question: It is. What do you say to parents who may choose not to send their children if they can’t meet this activity test?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s a light touch activity test and there’s no reason that families can’t manage to meet it with just four hours on average of volunteering, working, studying, training, caring et cetera. All good. Cheers.