The Outside School Hours Council of Australia (OSHCA) has acknowledged the Productivity Commission’s draft report on the future of early childhood education and care, and welcomes the recognition that increasing the availability of outside school hours care will help many Australian families access vital care.
OSCHA said it is encouraged by the recommendation in the draft report that each state and territory government should task education departments with assessing the need for outside school hours care (OSHC) for each government primary school, while developing solutions where services can be established.
“OSHCA has long advocated for harmonisation of regulations across states related to educator qualification and child to educator ratios and it is encouraging to see that the Productivity Commission has also called for nationwide uniformity,” the peak body said.
“This is critical, given the different and wide-ranging regulations applied to the sector across the jurisdictions, which increase the cost and complexity in delivering services and constrain access to workforce to meet care demands.
“We continue to advocate for harmonisation of those regulations and believe government action is required to support OSHC services to attract and retain quality educators and staff,” OSHCA said.
It said, overwhelmingly, families want flexible, engaging, affordable, safe care that their children enjoy.
“Outside School Hours Care is an important element of social infrastructure and our services provide families with care for their children so that parents can fulfill their employment commitments or support their families. This is especially important for woman who wish to return to the workforce,” OSHCA said.
“Without access to these services, parents – particularly mothers – would be unable to look for work, or work as many hours as they would like and need. OSHCA wholeheartedly supports the recommendation of increasing subsidy to 100% for families earning less than $80,000 and seeks confirmation that this is intended to apply across the industry, including OSHC services.”
OSHCA is of the strong view that funding must be provided by government to support a wage increase in the OSHC sector and ensure that services remain viable and affordable for parents as they return to work.
“The financial burden of childcare does not cease when a child starts their schooling. We ask the government to consider expanding their focus for affordable childcare further than early learning and long day care. In particular, the recommendation by the Productivity Commission to offer three days free care. This offer should be made available to school age children as well,” it said.
“Whilst most families that use OSHC services have also had children in long day care, the way they use our services are fundamentally different and requires a more nuanced regulatory approach as a result.”
Families with children in both long day care and OSHC services can claim the Child Care Subsidy rebate, but the multiple child discounts are only provided to families who have multiple children in a childcare service (long day care). OSHCA has previously advocated for the extension of multiple child discounts across both service types to provide consistency and budget certainty to families.
“OSHCA providers welcomed the opportunity to participate in the initial stage of the inquiry and we look forward to participating in the planned consultation and the release of the final report,” it said.
The Outside School Hours Council of Australia (OSHCA) encompasses providers who account for more than 30 per cent of the national OSHC market, including Junior Adventures Group, TeamKids, Camp Australia, TheirCare and The Y. OSHCA members represent approximately a third of the 4,000+ services that are operated on school sites throughout Australia, employing more than 10,000 people across all mainland states and territories.