Minister rejects childcare red tape outcry

Karen Sweeney
Simon Birmingham (C) says changes to child care subsidies will pay dividends for families

Changes to child care subsidies will cut red tape and pay dividends for families, Education Minister Simon Birmingham says.

But providers fear the changes will make managing enrolment lists more complex, while parents could struggle with maintaining consistent child care hours if their work hours change.

A new single-test subsidy will be implemented from July 2, which the government says is designed to be simpler than the current multi-test arrangements.

The test links fortnightly parent hours of study, work or volunteering - averaged over three months - to the number of hours subsidised.

Senator Birmingham says there have been changes to reduce regulation.

He says they've reduced requirements so there's no more mandating minimum hours or days a week providers must operate which has allowed centres like Good Start Early Learning - Australia's largest childcare provider - to offer shorter sessions.

"These changes are delivering dividends that will benefit Australian families," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

The Community Child Care Association says the reporting is an "unnecessary burden on families and services".

They shared their thoughts in a submission to parliament's red tape committee, which is holding public hearings with childcare organisations in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Other submissions suggest the changes will add red tape.

The Parenthood campaign manager Nicole Lessio claimed new regulations, like a 93-page Draft Childcare Provider Handbook, will require more attention from services.

"The time and effort required to comply is fine for bigger players in the sector, however the smaller centres will find the requirements quite intense," she said.

More than 800,000 families have already switched over to the new single-test scheme, but as many as 350,000 are yet to make the change.

Parents still have three weeks to sign up, plus a three-month transition period, but Senator Birmingham expects many will wait until the last minute so they can better estimate their income for the next financial year.

He also conceded some might have faced difficulties transitioning to the new system.

"My message to Australians first and foremost (is) take the steps to register and secondly, if you're having any difficulties, pick up the phone to ensure you get the help needed to make it as smooth a process as possible," he said.