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High Court Ruling Implications for Parents Who Stay Home

Paying only people who are not family members to care for disabled children is discriminatory according to the High Court which has upheld a Human Rights Tribunal ruling.  The Health Ministry has been told by the High Court that parents caring for disabled adult children should be eligible for financial support.

This ruling has implications for the early childhood education sector.  Families currently have limited choice as to how they use taxpayer support for early childhood education. Parents can not access taxpayer ECE funding support if they choose to be their child’s primary carer/educator.  

Parents may be as qualified or even better qualified than those who are funded to provide early childhood education and care. In early childhood centres 50% of staff that make up the required adult-child ratio must hold a recognised early childhood qualification and in home-based services the carers or educators do not need to having training.  

The ECE subsidy (averaging about $10 per hour per child for infants, $5 per hour for over-twos) and the first 20 Hours of ECE a week money (averaging around $10 per hour for 3, 4, 5 yr olds) is paid to directly to centres. The licensed home-based educator rate for the subsidy and 20 hours ECE averages $1 - $2 less than the centre rate.   

If a parent were offered the $10 per hour to stay at home with their baby, interact and teach their baby, and perhaps take a course in early education would this give families more choice in who cares for their child?  Would it give children more choice through parents being able to use the ECE subsidy and 20 hours ECE for the type of care and education that best suited the child?

In 2008 a survey of the opinions of 60 people following on from a national ECE policy forum, many of whom were experts and providers of ECE, found that 83% supported parents being entitled to a similar amount of taxpayer support or some financial support as early childhood centres, if they didn’t use ECE or use the full 20 Free Hours entitlement. 

The Australian Workers Union national secretary, Paul Howes has been quoted saying that the government there should explore giving parents subsidies to hire their own family members. The focus of concern in Australia is about the unsuitability of early childhood education centres for professional mothers and shift workers in particular who may find that a grandparent or relative can more easily provide the flexible hours of childcare they need.

A NZ survey carried out by Curia Market Research and commissioned by Family First earlier this year found that half of the 1000 people surveyed supported the 20 hours ECE funding being extended to parents who stay at home.


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