Page 3183 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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that support families here in Canberra? It did not. Instead, it causes fees to rise and makes finding appropriate care for children even more difficult. From 1 July this year, existing family day care services are being forced to meet a new set of eligibility criteria, meaning many lose a chunk of funding.

The new eligibility criteria restrict eligibility for CSP funding to family day care services that are the sole provider of family day care in the surrounding area, with weighting towards services that provide care in regional, remote or disadvantaged areas. Naturally, there will be a detrimental impact on Canberra by such changes. So, instead of all the promises from the former Prime Minister, what the federal government has actually done is make it more difficult for mothers and for families to plan to get access to affordable, quality child care and, particularly, for mothers to return to work.

The changes have also been very confusing for the sector with these cuts to family day carers, people who open their homes to other families and become an important part of family life and offer flexible care for those who might not easily have access to other forms of child care, as the minister noted.

This morning the ACT government, through Minister Burch, announced the full funding of 15 hours of public preschool. This government clearly recognises the importance of early childhood education and care for our community. The ACT government is committed to ensuring families can access affordable, high quality preschool education. The government acknowledges that lifelong learning is the foundation for Canberra’s ongoing prosperity and wants every child to have the opportunity to thrive.

I understand that over 4,000 children and their families will benefit as a result of today’s announcement. It is also excellent to see that the national quality framework has increased service provision quality in the ACT, with 42 ACT public preschools having now been assessed against the national quality standards and 31 receiving a rating of exceeding national quality standards.

The ACT will continue to be one of the only jurisdictions to offer free public preschool for 15 hours per week to all four-year-old children in the year before their formal schooling starts. This significant investment reflects our belief in the essential value of a quality early childhood education system to positively impact on a child’s development.

As the minister has noted, I was alarmed to hear the shadow minister refer to the lack of progress by the ACT government when in fact I had also been approached by a number of families asking the same question and, as a mum who has had three children through preschool, I also sought advice directly from the minister’s office. It was very clearly and very quickly cleared up for me that what the ACT government was waiting for was confirmation from the commonwealth to fund this essential program. I was able to tell the constituents that and to give them some certainty that the ACT government remained committed to this but was waiting for and working hard to get confirmation from the commonwealth.

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