Childcare services play a crucial role in enabling parents to work, to support their families and to actively contribute to society.
In many ways, affordable, high-quality child care forms the cornerstone of economic prosperity and social and emotional wellbeing.
However, despite the government’s claim that Australian families are better off under their childcare scheme, it’s disappointing to see that so many Bonner families are still hurting when it comes to paying childcare fees.
A perfect example of these families is the story of Julie; her husband, Trent; and their two children. Like many, Julie moved from the UK to Australia in search of a better life.
Chasing the Aussie dream, Julie and her husband have dedicated their lives to building a better future for their family.
Both working parents, Julie and Trent have relished in the opportunity to work hard, get ahead, improve their lifestyle and achieve a sense of financial security whilst raising their two children.
For many years their efforts were rewarded, and they managed to avoid relying on government assistance and took pride in their self-sufficiency and hard work paying off.
Despite their efforts, Julie recently reached out to me concerned over the cost-of-living crisis. Increased interest rates, higher electricity prices and higher taxes have put significant financial pressure on Julie and her family.
In their pursuit of financial relief, Julie and Trent turned to the government’s childcare subsidy scheme.
This scheme was promised to increase their disposable income and provide much-needed financial support during these challenging times.
However, this has not been case. Despite the subsidy, their childcare centre increased fees not once but twice this year, by an additional $22 per day per child.
This has meant that they are in fact worse off, in Julie’s own words, and their savings are non-existent. The reason the centre increased fees to this extent was due to inflation and the government’s wage rise.
We all value the hard work and professionalism of childcare workers—especially in identifying early learning difficulties, as this early intervention can change the course of a young person’s life—and of course childcare workers need to be paid fairly, but there is a delicate balance that needs to be achieved.
Raising wages does not automatically mean Australians are better off. In fact, it can drive up the cost of living for them and others.
So, instead of Julie and Trent choosing to have their son attend child care an extra day a week so Julie could work and earn more money for the family, they have decided it was cheaper and better for Julie to stay at home with their son.
Their story is not an isolated one; it represents the struggles faced by many families in Bonner and across Australia who find themselves falling into a cycle of financial stress despite their best efforts to secure a brighter future for their children.
This is simply not good enough. The government’s measures, even though they were implemented with the best of intentions, are clearly leaving everyday middle Australians behind. We were once known the world over as the country of hard work, reward and opportunity.
But, as Julie said, it feels as though, no matter how hard you work, there is no benefit, there are no savings, there is no getting ahead and there is no reward.
We cannot leave hard-working Australians behind.