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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1325 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

not easy looking after children. It is easy to keep children alive in a child-care centre, but we want more than that. We want children in child-care centres to be professionally cared for and supported in a way that will facilitate their wellbeing and allow them to grow to their potential. Parents have strong feelings about this as much as people working in the field do.

There is a lot of work still to be done in acknowledging the value of child-care work and the importance of that work for society as a whole. Salary and remuneration play a part in whether people want to work in the area. That has been covered by people here. It is a big part of the discussion.

The other thing I want to mention in this debate is access to child care and why people need child care. It is not just about working mothers or fathers. Child care is a really important intervention for families who are struggling, and we need to have a much greater accommodation of the role of child care. Child care can be regarded as respite care for those families that need it, particularly struggling families who need some time away from the children. The children need time away from the parents. Parents can be supported in their personal life issues much better if their children can be supported and cared for while they are dealing with those issues. In our system in the ACT there is some capacity for families to access child care for those reasons-not because parents are working but because there is a need for respite and support for both parents and children. This capacity needs to be improved.

The poverty task group reported on the importance of child care for parents, particularly single parents. Lack of access to child care is a major barrier to people improving their wellbeing and dealing with their life issues, particularly those related to poverty, as was highlighted by the poverty task group. People in poverty need support.

Thanks to the fantastic federal government, support for child care is diminishing. Operational funding was reduced several years ago. The ABS survey in 1999 found that 733,200 children were in formal child care and that 397,400 children would have been in child care had it been affordable, available when needed and close enough to home. Six per cent of parents said they wanted more or some formal child care. Thirty-three per cent said that the reason for not getting it was that it was too expensive, 14 per cent said there was no place and 12 per cent said there was no service they were aware of locally. Of the 6 per cent of parents who said they did not want formal child care, 82 per cent said it was too expensive, 10 per cent said it was not available when needed, and 8 per cent said there was a transport or distance problem. These statistics were reported in the 2001 Australia Institute of Health and Welfare welfare report.

The Department of Education and Community Services also did research on need in formal child care. However, they surveyed working parents, and only about their needs for work-related child care. They found in June 2000 a 22 per cent oversupply of work-related care for under-school-age children, which highlights the importance of the questions you ask, but also, more seriously, how important non-work child care is. For

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