MEMBER for McEwen Rob Mitchell has called for the Federal Government to reduce childcare costs and halt fee increases to help families financially recover from the pandemic.

In 2020, the government introduced a relief package that made childcare free for all families between April and July, also placing a freeze on childcare fee increases until January 2021 in response to COVID-19. But in February, fees jumped 2.4 per cent, more than double the rate of inflation.

The Wallan-to-Whittlesea area has one of the largest population of children aged zero to five per capita in the country, most of whom have been impacted by months of lockdown in 2020 and 2021.

Many families were forced to withdraw their children from childcare either due to health and safety concerns, restrictions on attendance, or to save money. 

“As we recover from the pandemic, these families need affordable childcare but have been hit with even more annual childcare fee hikes this year,” Mr Mitchell said. 

“As our area continues to grow and attract young families, the need for affordable childcare only continues to increase and this need is not being met by the Morrison government.”

From 2016 to 2020, childcare fees have increased from $476 per week to $546 in Victoria. Over the same period nationally, the number of people who were not working because they were caring for children at home due to the cost of childcare increased by 23 per cent.

In 2018 the government introduced means-tested fee subsidies of up to 85 per cent for those in the lowest income bracket, and the Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge told the Review the Coalition government had increased funding to childcare by 77 per cent since it took office.

“What matters most for families is their out-of-pocket costs, not the fees charged by centres,” he said.

“The average out-of-pocket cost in Victoria is just $4.05 per hour, around 23 per cent cheaper than before our childcare package was introduced in 2018.

“Around 1720 families in Kilmore, Whittlesea and surrounds have more than one child under six in care and stand to be an average of $2200 better off a year under our multiple childcare subsidy and around $700 better off this financial year.”

But Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that out-of-pocket costs have risen since 2018. 

Mr Tudge said the government would be implementing additional supports in March 2022.

“We are also bringing forward additional support for around 250,000 families with two or more kids in care to start in March next year.

“Those families will receive an additional 30 per cent subsidy – covering up to 95 per cent of their costs for their second child and any additional children in care.” 

Labor has condemned new data that shows the Liberal Government has seen a 39.2 per cent national increase in daycare fees since its election in 2013, and has made an election promise to reduce childcare fees by 97 per cent.  

“The current child care system is not designed to get everyone back to work. Parents want to go back to work or do more hours but find it just isn’t worth it because they cant afford extra care for their kids,” Mr Mitchell said.