In a first, time-poor parents can have their say on the nation’s first major review of childcare since the 1990s without having to make a full-length submission.
Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley said the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning had incorporated the option for people to leave a “brief comment” via a simple online form on their website.
It is the first-time a PC Inquiry has offered this type of opportunity, she said.
Ms Ley said it was a timely reminder for the 729,780 families who used childcare in Australia, given submissions closed on Monday (Feb 3).
“The work lives of Australian families are no longer strictly nine-to-five and have never been busier,” Ms Ley said.
“I’ve been a working mum with young children myself and it’s hard enough to get five minutes to yourself, let alone sit down and lodge a full submission.
“However, this ever-growing pressure on our family lives is exactly why we want to hear from parents to ensure Australians have access to child care that’s both affordable and flexible.
“It’s fantastic the Productivity Commission is pulling out all the stops to make it easier for busy parents to take part in this once-in-a-generation Inquiry.”
Ms Ley said the online form could be accessed from any device with internet access, meaning it was perfect for people “on the run”.
“This is a quick and easy way to ensure you have your say that you can easily do on your morning coffee break or on the bus or train to work,” she said.
“It’s also a perfect way for educators, operators and parents and grandparents who’ve used childcare in the past to share their views and experiences.”
To make a comment using the online form visit: http://pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/childcare/comment.
Ms Ley said the Coalition had tasked the Productivity Commission with taking a holistic view to reform, including looking at issues facing mothers returning to the workforce, rural, regional and remote communities, shift workers and disadvantaged and vulnerable children.
She said the Productivity Commission had also released a short discussion paper posing key questions to help guide responses, including:
· Have you experienced difficulty accessing suitable care for your child? If so, is this due to a lack of services in your area or available places at the time you require?
· Has increasing workforce participation by mothers increased demand for childcare, or has improved availability, affordability, and/or quality of childcare led to increased participation?
· What can childcare operators and governments do to improve the delivery of childcare services to children with additional needs?
· What are the particular challenges facing parents and operators in regional, remote and rural areas?
· Whether any increased staffing costs for operators have been, or will be, passed on in higher fees charged to families?
Ms Ley said anyone interested in downloading the issues paper, making a full submission or finding out more about the Inquiry could visit http://www.pc.gov.au/projects/inquiry/childcare.
The Productivity Commission is expected to report to the Government by the end of October 2014.
Childcare by numbers:
At last count (March quarter 2013), there were:
· More than one million children (1,042,280) attending approved childcare services – increased 6.8% on year before
· 729,780 families using approved childcare services – increased 5.8% on year before
· 15,454 approved childcare services in Australia – increased 4.1% on year before