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 Program'', 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'' affect on the operating costs of providers that will be passed on to parents. It estimates fees for a child in full-time family day care will rise by roughly $35 a week or about $1700 a year.
Carla Northam, the chief executive Family Day Care Australia, warned that 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 Program, well-established day care centres help home-based operators with professional development, administration and regulatory requirements.
Family day care operator Leelian Oey looks after four children each week at her home in Canterbury. She is supported by staff from The Infants' Home at Ashfield, who visit once a month to monitor standards. The Infants' Home also helps Ms Oey with administration, including the paperwork for government subsidies to parents. ''It's good for me because I'm more confident [with their support],'' Ms Oey said.
Anita Kumar, chief executive of The Infants Home, said some family day care centres would be forced to close if the government cut funding to the Community Support Program.
''This budget cut is devastating,'' she said. ''It marks the beginning of the end of family day care … good quality providers like us, if we can't be assured that the quality is managed, we can't continue providing the [family day care] service.''
Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley said the Community Support Program needed to be better targeted and that the government would be working with the sector during the 12 month transition to the new rules.
''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,'' she said.
The government will spend $28.5 billion over the next four years on childcare subsidies.