10 February 2020

ACT parents grapple with most expensive child care in the nation

| Ian Bushnell
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Childcare career

Child care is a pocket-draining experience for many Canberra parents. Photo: File.

ACT parents are forking out more of their incomes for child care than other families in the nation, whether that be for long day care or family day care.

The latest Report on Government Services data from the Productivity Commission shows the cost of child care is the highest in the nation.

The report says the median cost of weekly long day care in the national capital, based on 50 hours of care, is $560, $70 above that paid by NSW and Victorian parents, and $100 more than the national figure.

For family day care, the gap between what ACT parents pay and the national median cost is even greater. In the ACT it is $510 a week, $110 more than the national figure.

The next most expensive family day care is in the Northern Territory at $475 a week, but the cost in NSW (380) and Victoria (400) is much lower.

The data also shows that Canberra parents are spending much more of their incomes on child care than those in other jurisdictions, based on what families with $75,000 gross annual income will spend on one child for 30 hours of long day care and family day care after child subsidies.

For long day care, ACT parents are parting with 9.1 per cent of their weekly income, compared with the national average of 7.2 per cent. The nearest to the ACT figure is NSW and Victoria at 7.8 per cent. Before subsidies, ACT parents are paying a quarter (25.5%) of their weekly income.

Family day is also consuming more of ACT parents weekly incomes than anywhere else, at 7.1 per cent. The national average is 5 per cent, with the NT at 6.8 per cent. Before subsidies, it is 23.7 per cent.

But the ACT does have the cheapest preschool costs in the country, with a median hourly cost of $2.33 after subsidies. The national figure is $2.69, with Queensland at 3.71, NSW at $3 and Victoria at $2.78.

The ROGS data also poses some questions about the quality of care, with the ACT recording the highest rate of serious incidents in the country at 171.8 per 100 approved services for long day care.

There were 472 serious incidents in ACT child care centres during 2017-18, with 256 reported in long day care, 14 in family day care and 20 in preschool.

The report says 42.7 per cent of ACT children attended Australian Government Child Care Benefit approved child care services in 2018, while 99.4 per cent were enrolled in a preschool program.

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development Yvette Berry said in a statement that the ACT Government was committed to giving every child the best start in life and the ROGS report showed it was making a difference for children and their families.

She said the ACT Government had over time taken steps to ensure there was a good supply of services available across the Territory and competition between service providers.

“The ACT Government already funds 15 hours a week of free, universal access early childhood education to four year-olds and the ACT is the first jurisdiction in Australia to commit to transitioning to free, universal access to quality early childhood education for three-year-old children,” Ms Berry said.

“This year the ACT is taking the first step towards universal access by providing access to 15 hours per week, 600 hours per year of education for a targeted group of up to 300 three-year-olds in Early Childhood Education Care services and 100 places in Koori preschool.”

Ms Berry said ACT early childhood education and care services also led the country in terms of quality, with 46 per cent of services exceeding national quality standards compared to 31 per cent nationally.

She said that for the second year in a row more children aged five years and under in the ACT are attending an Australian Government approved early childhood service than any other jurisdiction.

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