Parents to get random 'spot checks' on work hours in Coalition plan

Parents seeking to qualify for childcare subsidies will be subject to spot checks on their working hours under a ...
Parents seeking to qualify for childcare subsidies will be subject to spot checks on their working hours under a Coalition plan. 

Families will be subjected to random "spot checks" from the government to make sure they are reporting their work hours accurately under the Coalition's new childcare plan. 

Under the new childcare package, parents will need to work or study for at least eight hours a fortnight in in order to qualify for minimum level of childcare subsidies. More hours of subsidy are provided for parents who work more than 16 hours and then more than 48 hours. 

Under the new system, which is due to begin from July 1 2017, parents will have to "self-declare" to the government how many hours of work or study they do.

This will be based on the amount of approved activity they do over a fortnight.

But according to the Department of Education, some parents will also undergo random checks "to ensure they are complying with the requirements". 

Also according to information accompanying the new childcare bill, which was introduced to the House on Wednesday, a wide variety of activities will be included under the work and study banner. 

This includes self-employment, jury duty, volunteering, unpaid work in a family business, unpaid work experience, caring and looking for work. 

The government has said that the new childcare system, which will also roll multiple childcare subsidies into one, will be "supported by smart technology". 


Under the new package, which was announced this year, families on incomes up to $65,710 will qualify for 85 per cent of their hourly childcare fees, up to a cap set by the government. This will reduce to 50 per cent for families on incomes of $170,710, tapering to 20 per cent for those earning $340,000 and above. 

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the government wanted to make access to childcare "fairer". 

"The more you work, the greater your entitlement to government-subsidised childcare. The less you earn, the greater the rate of subsidy you will receive," he said. 

While the investment in low and middle income families has been broadly welcomed by childcare advocates and providers, questions remain over a drop in the overall funding level promised and continued lack of detail. 

In the May budget, the government pledged an extra investment of $3.5 million over four years for childcare, but this has dropped to $3.2 billion in the final package that was presented to Parliament on Wednesday. 

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said this was because the childcare package had been "able to be delivered in a slightly more efficient way than we first considered". 

This is due to less generous funding to parents on higher incomes than initially proposed. 

The Australian Childcare Alliance said the government had "missed an amazing opportunity" not to reinvest the funds, while Early Childhood Australia renewed its call for all children to get access to two days a week of subsidised childcare, regardless of their family background. Under the new plan, families earning under $65,000 will get 12 hours of care a week. 

The government says that families earning between $65,000 and $170,000 will be about $30 a week better off under the new package, but Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page said the sector was still waiting to see modelling data on which families were affected at different income levels. 

"It's still quite difficult to say how this new package will impact on families across the board."