Jobs for families is a bitter-sweet package
UnitingCare Australia says the highly anticipated Families Package is bitter-sweet for Australian families.
“While greater investment in childcare is very welcome, elements of this particular package are badly targeted, and also risk limiting families’ choices in the long-term,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director of UnitingCare Australia.
“More funding for quality childcare is something we welcome, but some of the detail of the package is disappointing. The Government has chosen to give big subsidies to very high income families. Families earning $300,000 a year will still be able to access $10,000 per child for childcare. This money could be more effectively spent in other areas to increase living standards and enable greater social mobility for the most vulnerable families.”
“The Productivity Commission last year recommended a much sharper taper rate at the top end for the childcare benefit than the one the Government has chosen. It is disappointing that the Government has decided to tip the scales more towards providing middle-class welfare—the very thing they are attempting to tighten through age pension changes.”
“We are also concerned about the narrow focus on getting women into the paid workforce,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds.
“A flourishing society involves people engaging in all sorts of meaningful activity that is not monetised but is respected as valuable and important. Ultimately, this package risks devaluing that activity.”
“By tying childcare to workforce participation with a strict activity test, the incentives now tip even more strongly towards both parents in lower-income families needing to work to make ends meet. This risks undervaluing the unpaid work of mums and dads who care for small children.”
“As dual income families receive subsidies to cover the costs of care, the financial gap between them and families that chose to have a primary care-giver at home becomes greater. Ultimately this gives families less choice.”
“The paid parental leave scheme (PLP) that the Government is changing was also an initiative that allowed parents to choose to extend the amount of time they had at home with a new baby. Parents who use the PLP alongside workplace leave are not ‘double-dipping’. The change in people’s eligibility for PLP is likely to reduce the length of time many new parents spend at home with a newborn before returning to work.”
“For a long time, the community sector has been arguing that children need to be prioritised. While it is encouraging to see quality childcare and early learning being given priority in the Budget, this package is far from ideal. There are far better ways to provide genuine support to the families that need it most.”