ABC Rural with Lucy Barbour - Announcement of Occasional Care Programme funding

  • Assistant Minister for Education

JOURNALIST: When something crops up at the last minute, like work or a doctor’s appointment perhaps, it can be really hard to find someone to look after the kids. One option is Occasional Care. It’s similar to traditional child care but not quite as formal. You can book children in at the last minute, the hours are pretty flexible and you only pay for how long the child actually stays at the centre. The Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley, says regional and rural areas need more access to this type of service.

SUSSAN LEY: Well seasonal workers certainly could make use of the Occasional Care in their region, but look I can remember, as a farming partner having three small children down at the dairy trying to get the cows milked before the milk tanker comes, and you know in those days Occasional Care wasn’t available in the community.

JOURNALIST: Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced it would restore $12.6 million in Occasional Care funding, which was cut under Labor. Today, the Coalition will make funding offers to states who have agreed to sign up to the National Occasional Care Programme. Sussan Ley won’t say how much each state is being offered, but she is recommending that states give preference to funding Occasional Care in rural and regional areas.

SUSSAN LEY: The fact that we’re saying the Occasional Care that we invite the states to offer through this funding should have a rural and regional focus reflects our view that rural and regional families often do miss out.

JOURNALIST: The only state that hasn’t agreed to sign up to the programme is New South Wales. The Northern Territory and the ACT haven’t either. Sussan Ley.

SUSSAN LEY: All states were invited to participate and some states chose not to. They may have determined that the way the programme was, or the way the funding was allocated didn’t suit them. Obviously I would have liked every state to be part of this but states themselves had to contribute. The way this Occasional Care funding has always worked is that states put in half the funding, and the Commonwealth puts in half the funding.

JOURNALIST: $12.6 million – how far can that really go?

SUSSAN LEY: Well $12.6 million is the amount of funding that we used to contribute before Labor took it away. So when you match that with state funding and match that with community funding, it actually does go an incredibly long way.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you would have liked to see more federal funding go towards this, though?

SUSSAN LEY: I’m very focused on the Productivity Commission and its recommendations around Occasional Care. It’s certainly talked up Occasional Care because the submissions to its process have reflected a need in the community. In our response early next year I certainly will maintain a strong focus on Occasional Care, particularly for rural and regional communities.

JOURNALIST: So are you hinting there that you might be putting more money on the table for Occasional Care in the future?

SUSSAN LEY: Well I can’t really say what might happen post the PC and our response to it but remember that the funding that we have for child care generally is $31.5 billion for the next four years. That’s a strong financial position from the Commonwealth and I want to make sure that families in whatever circumstances they find themselves – whether it’s in the suburbs or out on farms – have the flexibility of care options that right now they do not have.

JOURNALIST: The draft Productivity Commission report which came out in July into child care suggested the Government should redirect funds away from the Prime Minister’s signature Paid Parental Leave scheme and into child care services. Do you think that’s what’s happening here with you making this announcement?

SUSSAN LEY: Not at all. The Paid Parental Leave scheme is a separate policy – one that I firmly stand behind. I see it as a separate area, if you like, of public policy. So one is about stepping away from your workplace or your job to have a child and the other is about going back to work and having proper early education and care for your children. So, they are absolutely two separate policies.


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