Subject: Child Care Reform


Sarah Tomlinson: The Turnbull Government has announced that it will support grandparents with subsidised child care for those who are the primary carers for their grandchildren. This initiative is part of the Jobs for Families package, and to tell us more we’re joined by Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham. Welcome to the program.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning Sarah, good morning to your listeners.

Sarah Tomlinson: So what’s currently in the child subsidy test when it comes to being able to access child care?

Simon Birmingham: Well we currently have a range of different payments that are available: the Child Care Benefit, the Child Care Rebate, a number of other different payments and programs that operate. And what we’re seeking to do as a Government is to simplify that by rolling it all into one new child care subsidy arrangement; and then alongside that make sure we have appropriate safety nets for certain categories of people where vulnerable children are involved, or in this case the grandparents who have taken up the challenge for society of looking after their grandchildren as the primary carer. Often of course they’re talking about situations where the children have been at risk or are in some sort of vulnerable circumstance. And of course those grandparents are doing it out of love and out of affection for their grandchildren, but also importantly they’re doing a real service for society, often in their retirement years. And we want to make sure that in return for that service they get appropriate respite and opportunity to access child care services without being out of pocket.

Sarah Tomlinson: What have grandparents previously missed out on when it comes to access to family support?

Simon Birmingham: So there are some support measures already in place for grandparents, which is not an entirely new concept, but in going through a complete and wholesale change of child care payments and making sure they are simplified, we’ve been very keen to ensure that that applies as much to grandparents as it does to any other category of individual who we’re targeting assistance to. So this is about making it very clear that if you are a grandparent who is the primary carer for your grandchildren you will be exempt from the new work activity test that applies to other parents for accessing child care support. And if you’re on some type of government payment, such as the pension or otherwise, then you’ll receive up to 120 per cent of the child care subsidy against the hourly cap, which should in virtually all circumstances ensure that those grandparents are not out of pocket for the care of their grandchildren.

Sarah Tomlinson: How much had we seen grandparents sort of being out of pocket in this situation previously?

Simon Birmingham:
Well there certainly have been some instances, and our estimates are that this new policy will support around 3900 grandparents catering for more than 6000 grandchildren. So it’s a small but very, very important number across the community. Frankly, as somebody who spent six years as a young person being cared for by my nan, I certainly recognise the immense contribution that grandparents make, and the need for us to help them out. And this is just a small way in which the government can make their life a little bit easier when they’ve taken on the task of caring for another generation beyond their own children.

Sarah Tomlinson: Senator Birmingham is there any limits on- so the care that’s being given, does it need to be a full-time grandparent?

Simon Birmingham: The test here is to be the primary carer of the grandchildren, so …

Sarah Tomlinson: [Talks over] Sorry, a full-time primary carer I should have said. Of course you’re a full time grandparent.

Simon Birmingham: That’s right. So primary carer being essentially full-time in nature. There are established protocols through Centrelink for people to register for- as the primary carer, which of course means that it makes life easier in dealing with schools and with other centres as life goes on. So yes I know there are many other grandparents out there who put in many, many hours helping to look after their grandchildren out of love and affection, and their of course children, the parents of their grandchildren, are able to access our new child care subsidy arrangements once they’re legislated, which ensure that we provide the greatest amount of support to those who work the most, and to those who earn the least. So for parents out there listening, under the proposed new child care subsidy arrangements the more hours you work the more hours of care will be subsidised by the government; and the less you earn from your work the greater the rate of subsidy will apply. So for low-income families, that’s up to an 85 per cent subsidy on the cost of child care, but tapering right down for high-income families earning more than $250,000 to a 20 per cent subsidy.

Sarah Tomlinson: What memories do you have of living with your nan for a while?

Simon Birmingham: Oh I have incredibly fond memories. And I was very fortunate, I had a very engaged mum who was working full-time following the divorce of my parents, and so I was- I had the benefit of the village, as such, to have in terms of …

Sarah Tomlinson: Are you still there Senator? Okay, Senator Simon Birmingham joining us on the program. And that family- sorry Jobs for Families package, which includes those services for grandparents, will be available from next year.

Senator Birmingham’s media contact: James Murphy 0447 644 957
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