Government must focus on out-of-school-hours child care to get women back into the workforce

To improve women’s workforce participation more effectively, the Commonwealth Government must enhance the availability and accessibility to families, of before and after-school care for school-aged children, says the National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), a leading independent women’s advocacy group.

“The debate over childcare reform has been dominated by an emphasis on care arrangements for pre-schoolers.  While this is an important focus, it has unfortunately also led to a corresponding neglect in policy, understanding and services in the equally important school-aged child care sector”, said Ms Marie Coleman, chair, NFAW Social Policy Committee.

“There continues to be a substantial gap in the workforce participation of mothers compared with fathers of school-aged children.  To illustrate, the participation rate of mothers with children aged 6 to 14 years was 78 percent.  But for fathers of children in the same age band, it was as high as 92 per cent.  This suggests that accessible school-aged child care has an important role to play in closing that gap.

“The shortage of before and after school care programs is now at crisis point in many densely populated parts of the country and particularly in Sydney.  This must be treated as an urgent issue for policy-makers and also for the Productivity Commission which largely overlooked the matter in its interim report on childcare – a gap we hope will be addressed when the Commission delivers its final report on 31 October 2014,” Ms Coleman said.

Ms Coleman said that the findings of a 2012 NATSEM study supported the case for greater availability and affordability of Outside School Hours (OSH) care for school-aged children.

The NATSEM study found that only a limited number of school-aged children are in formal care and that the use of formal care is strongly correlated with parental wealth.  Specifically:

  • Just over 10 per cent of school-aged children are placed in formal OSH care when their parents are at work
  • Children living in low-income families are much less likely to be using formal OSH care than those in high income families – only 1 per cent in the bottom income quintile, compared with over 20 per cent in the top income quintile.

“These findings show there’s clearly room to improve the accessibility of OSH care.  We believe the Commonwealth government should improve funding for the sector and encourage State and Territory governments to co-operate in making school facilities available as OSH care sites.

“Commonwealth funding should be tied to appropriate standards for OSH care programs, but at the same time, the sector should not be over-burdened with ‘red tape’.  After all, the needs of school-aged children in generally short-term care outside of class time, are quite different from those of infants and toddlers in long day care.  It goes without saying that carers and educators in OSH care programs should be vetted and appropriate qualified, but it may not be necessary for all to have education qualifications or for centre reporting requirements to fall under the stringent National Quality Control Framework,” Ms Coleman said.

“Successful OSH Care programs are those that run fun, safe and engaging programs for kids from facilities located at the school itself.  Making OSH care more available, affordable and convenient will have a very positive impact in getting women with school-aged kids back into the workforce”.

 

For further information contact Marie Coleman on 0414 483 067 or Viv Hardy at CallidusPR on 0411 208 951 or 02 9283 4113.

Download a copy of the Release here – NFAW Release – OSH Care – September 2014-1