More attention needed for before and after-school care:


Improving before and after-school care and holiday programs could be the most efficient and effective way of helping more women re-enter the workforce, the National Foundation for Australian Women says. 

With current policy debates firmly focused on paid parental leave and care for small children, the Foundation for Australian Women is calling on the federal government to pay closer attention to care for children once they are at school.

“The concentration of parental complaints and of governmental policy on care for the under school age child has led to a serious deficiency in both service provision and policy understanding of the sector,” it says in its final submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into childcare.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the workforce participation rate for mothers whose youngest child is between six and 14 years is 78 per cent. This compares to 92 per cent for fathers of school-aged children.

The Foundation for Australian Women said research indicates that only a very limited number of school-aged children are in formal care.

A 2012 National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling study found that about ten per cent of school-aged children used what is called ‘outside school hours care’ and that they were more likely to come from affluent areas. It also found that many households with school-aged children were having difficulty accessing childcare.

In its submission, the Foundation for Australian Women said that parents were also reporting particular problems during school holidays. “Parents report sub-teen children [are] unwilling to attend programs designed for five and six year-olds and that activities which are of interest are not eligible for the Child Care Benefit or Child Care Rebate.”

The Productivity Commission’s draft report, released in July, reported that it too, had heard parents were having problems accessing outside school hours care, noting that schools’ six-hour days and 12 weeks of holidays do “not facilitate parents participating in paid work”.

The commission recommended that state and territory governments direct schools to take responsibility for organising an outside hours service for their students “where demand is sufficiently large for a service to be viable”.

The Foundation for Australian Women said the idea had “merit” but “will require the cooperation of state education departments, which may be a barrier to implementation”.  “The commission’s report is unhappily not comprehensive in its treatment of this area … and we note that most commentary and response to the [draft] report has ignored the area,” it said.

The Productivity Commission will provide its final report to the federal government by October 31.

Judith Ireland, National political reporter – September 9, 2014