Childcare: Aussie mum slams $141-a-day ‘robbery’
ADELE Barbaro opened her inbox to find an email from her children's childcare centre that left her reeling this week.
Fees were being hiked up yet again - this time by 4.5 per cent - meaning she and her husband would now have to fork out $141 per day, per child for son Harvey, 3, and daughter Chloe, 21 months.
Just last year, fees had risen to $135 per day, per child - an increase that "conveniently" coincided with the Federal Government's announcement of new subsidies in July.
Mrs Barbaro, who created the hugely successful parenting blog The Real Mumma, said the cost of childcare was a huge concern for many of her 170,000-odd followers as well as for her own family.
She told news.com.au she made the decision to walk away from her former job as a personal assistant last year because "astronomical" childcare fees meant she would be losing money by working full-time and putting both children in care.
She said she and other parents were particularly frustrated as many childcare centres seemed to jack up their prices as soon as the Government introduced new subsidies, a practice she likened to a "rort" that "completely wipes out any benefit" and often leaves parents worse off.
She said, at the moment, many centres were more expensive than others depending on location, and it was time for the Government to step in and regulate the industry.
"It means that so many mothers literally can't afford to go back to work," Mrs Barbaro said.
"The Government has a responsibility to monitor the rising cost of childcare - some of these publicly-listed companies are making in excess of millions in profit each year at the expense of hardworking families, and it should be regulated and achievable no matter where you live.
"By location or demographic, some centres are more expensive than others, but why should it be? And how can it just keep going up and up and by such huge amounts?"
Mrs Barbaro said many Aussie women were "almost crippled" by the current situation because they were often unable to return to work until their kids started school - meaning they lost vital skills in the meantime.
That sentiment was backed up by thousands of her followers after Mrs Barbaro posted about the latest fee increase on Facebook, with many sharing their own stories of being left out of pocket after returning to work thanks to staggering childcare costs.
It includes a $4 billion investment in early education, with every Australian family earning up to $174,000 set to receive cheaper childcare under Labor.
The ALP will increase the subsidy rate to 100 per cent up to the hourly fee cap for eligible families earning up to $69,000, while those earning between $69,000 and $100,000 will receive a subsidy rate between 100 per cent and 85 per cent up to the hourly fee cap, and families earning between $100,000 and $174,000 will receive a subsidy rate between 85 per cent and 60 per cent up to the fee cap.
But Mrs Barbaro said the most crucial change would be preventing childcare centres from "hiking up fees".
"What (Mr Shorten's) government is better off doing is bringing in legislation to cap the childcare centres' profits. Regulation is the key," she said.
To its credit, Labor has also vowed to "crack down on excessive fee increases" and will give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) a new role of investigating "excessive fee increases" and "unscrupulous providers", with findings to be made publicly available.
Alys Gagnon, the executive director of not-for-profit parenting organisation The Parenthood, told news.com.au Labor's announcement was good news for families, and she particularly welcomed moves to make childcare free for families earning less than $69,000 a year.
"For many parents and carers, early childhood education fees present a barrier to work, especially families struggling to get by on a low income," she said.
Ms Gagnon also welcomed Labor's promise to have the ACCC investigate ways to better regulate early childhood education fees.
"Some providers, in the past, have opportunistically raised their fees around the time of subsidy increases, meaning parents don't ever really see the benefits of that support," Ms Gagnon said.
"Making sure early childhood education investment benefits children and families and not
providers will be very pleasing to parents."
Labor's childcare announcement prompted some members of the public to argue in favour of tax deductions for childcare instead of subsidies or other measures - a suggestion dismissed by outgoing Labor MP and former minister for early childhood education Kate Ellis who labelled the concept a "regressive move" that mostly benefits the wealthy.
It's a sentiment echoed by Ms Gagnon who said making early childhood education tax deductible would lead to low-income earners paying the most.
"The most equitable approach is to support as many families as possible while targeting extra support to low-income earners," Ms Gagnon said.
"At the end of the day, what we're looking for is a level playing field for children. After all, they're the most important stakeholder here."
Meanwhile, the Coalition claims its subsidy was making childcare "more accessible and affordable" for more than one million families, estimating a typical family was around $1300 better off per year.
The Liberal Party website claims its subsidy has already reduced out-of-pocket costs for families by 10 per cent.