Cost not only child-care issue – it’s quality, says book

Stephanie Peatling, Sydney Morning Herald

INCREASING payments to parents to cover the expense of child care will only drive up costs and do nothing to improve the quality of care children receive, a new book says.

While boosting the child-care rebate will give parents immediate relief from climbing fees, the book by a team of academics says it will not help the other big problem – accessibility.

“The work in Australia and internationally is that the emphasis needs to be on quality not just cost,” a Sydney University economist and one of the book’s authors, Elizabeth Hill, said.

Labor stole the Coalition’s thunder on child-care policy early in the campaign by announcing it would increase the child-care rebate …. But Dr Hill said although increases in the child-care rebate would be welcomed in the short term, they would only compound problems of accessibility and affordability in the future.

“It’s effectively a subsidy for industry and for parents. My concern is that what’s good in the short term is negative in the long term. It does nothing to improve the quality of the service because there’s still tight supply,” she said.

Sydney University will release the book today.

The authors argue that Australia’s child-care system has been developed as a prop for the labour market rather than with children’s development and educational needs in mind.

Because of this, the authors argue, Australia lags much of the developed world in providing universal, high-quality care for children who are not yet old enough to attend school.

They also criticise the dominance of private child-care providers, such as ABC Learning.