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Fees-rise fears for family day care

Date

Matt Wade and Sherrill Nixon

Mount Eliza family day care provider Danielle Davich is worried an extra $35 a week will mean the end for small services.

Mount Eliza family day care provider Danielle Davich is worried an extra $35 a week will mean the end for small services. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Parents using family day care have been warned their childcare fees will jump by up to $35 a week and some small childcare providers could be put out of business because of federal funding cuts.

The budget revealed $157 million would be saved over three years from mid-2015 by tightening eligibility for the Community Support Programme, which provides funding to help small family day care operators with administration and quality control. Family Day Care Australia, the sector's peak body, says this change will have a ''dramatic and direct'' effect on operating costs that will have to be passed onto parents. It estimates fees for a child in full-time family day care will rise by roughly $35 per week or about $1700 a year.

Carla Northam, the chief executive of Family Day Care Australia, warned the changes would make many services ''unviable''.

''The funding is a key financial underpinning of all family day care services,'' she said.

About 80,000 families use family day care, which is provided in the homes of approved operators. Under the Community Support Programme, well-established day care centres help home-based operators with professional development, administration and regulatory requirements.

Victorian family day care educator Danielle Davich looks after 15 children during various times of the week at her Mount Eliza home and is supported by staff from Bambini who monitor her standards. She said charging an extra $35 a week per child could be a tipping point for her clients and her business.

''It's a lot of money for families that are already struggling to pay for family day care so they can go to work and make money,'' she said.

''Parents might wonder if it's too expensive and, even if they don't like it, they might have to send their children to a larger centre … and there are a lot of children out there who don't like being in large rooms with 20 other children.''

City-based family day care will be most affected because under the changes regional, remote and disadvantaged areas will be prioritised.

Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley, said the Community Support Programme needed to be better targeted. ''Bringing family day care into line with other services types such as long day care and outside hours school care will ensure this program is fair and sustainable.''

The government will spend $28.5 billion over the next four years on childcare subsidies. Family day care users who qualify for the Child Care Benefit receive about 30 per cent more fee assistance than parents using long day care.

With Julia Medew

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