The Government claims to be constantly working to improve the system of childcare in this country, often making cuts so spending is more streamlined and more effective.
Unfortunately, those cuts aren’t always in the right place.
Why? Well, before we get into that, it’s worth looking at some numbers. Let’s start with one that might surprise you: one in four parents that uses childcare in Australia doesn’t have a job.
They don’t have a job? You might ask: why are they using childcare?
Let’s look deeper.
The biggest group in the one-of-four, around 156,000, are stay-at-home parents. They aren’t singles, but they’re the other half of either a husband or wife team who works. They make up about 17% of all the families using childcare. Next to them there are also 63,000 single parents (with no partner) who use childcare but don’t have a job. Then after that there’s the jobless families, around 15,000 families, using childcare where neither parent has a job.
Recent government cuts may impact all of these families, perhaps in ways you haven’t imagined. So before you blast those parents for complaining that childcare cuts aren’t really doing them any damage, think about this.
Stay-At-Home Parents + Single Parents
Although on the surface, it might not make a lot of sense that families with a stay-at-home parent would need childcare, think again. Parents choose to stay at home for any number of reasons. In some cases, they have other small children that need care, often more than one, which means their older (but pre-school) aged children are not getting enough attention. In other cases, they may have extra responsibilities, such as being a carer to an older relative, or even a special needs child.
So, to make sure that they get some time to breathe, some time to be able to cope with those responsibilities, they send their kids to childcare. What you need to remember is that the benefits of childcare for the child stretch way beyond the benefits of some free time for the parent. Early learning means children are better prepared when they come to start school, and more accustomed to the rigours and routines of a learning environment.
It’s a hard life growing up in a jobless family, especially if you’re the second or even third generation in a line of people who’ve missed opportunities, and never held down solid employment, and live for the dole. The good news is that for children, childcare is an early learning opportunity that could disrupt that negative cycle. For children from severely disadvantaged family, their childcare experience might be one of the few times that they get clear routine, meals and dedicated learning opportunities. Taking away access to childcare for these families just puts them more at risk of being behind their peers from the start, and repeating this negative pattern. Indeed, it’s common knowledge that children from low socio-economic background who attend no early learning and receive no early social and education input start their schooling at the back of the group. Is this really the reality we want to sentence these kids to?
What Are The Benefits?
Although the Government might not want to admit it, and it might not be the best money-saving option, there are benefits associated with children attending early learning such as childcare. Many parents have gushed about how their children have become more sociable, more talkative and more open to trying new activities. A group of similarly aged children, as well as kids older and younger, creates a diverse social learning environment in which many children thrive beyond expectations. Certainly, it’s more than many children will get at home with just one parent trying to entertain them, and much more than children from disadvantaged families will get in their own environments.
The only issue is there aren’t any large, encompassing studies that concretely support this, which makes it difficult to believe for some people. One of the reasons behind this is likely that different children respond to environments in different ways, with quieter, more introverted children seeing less benefits from childcare than sociable, extroverted kids.
However, the argument remains true, there are benefits to kids experiencing a childcare environment, even if they come from a stay-at-home parent or jobless family. So why don’t we think more about the kids, and less about the adults when it comes to making changes to our childcare legislation.