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Labour's 'free' childcare is not free at all

Hon Bill English
National Party Education Spokesman
13 July 2005

Labour's 'free' childcare is not free at all

National Party Education spokesman Bill English says official papers show that Labour's allegedly free childcare policy will not deliver free childcare at all.

Papers obtained by Mr English using the Official Information Act show that Labour will allow childcare centres to request donations from parents who qualify under Labour's '20-hours-free' policy.

The papers also show that Labour expects community-based services will push-up their fees for under-threes and care that lasts longer than 20-hours per week. Labour expects services to cross-subsidize between those children who receive free hours and those who do not.

Earlier this week, Mr English released official papers showing most government officials opposed Labour's policy because it is illogical and near-impossible to implement.

"Judith Tizard proved that even Labour Ministers don't understand the bizarre policy when she told parents at a privately owned centre that they were eligible for the subsidy."

Under Labour, parents whose three-and four-year-olds are enrolled in community-based, not-for-profit childcare centres will receive the subsidy. Parents with children aged under-three or with children in private childcare providers, do not qualify.

Mr English says Labour's policy is nothing more than a lottery for toddlers because only one-in-ten under fives will benefit.

"Labour's decision to allow childcare centres to levy donations means these donations will be like school donations - parents will have to pay them to keep the centres viable.

"These papers also reveal that Labour will pay for the policy by cutting the childcare subsidy. This means a $50 million policy will actually amount to only $35 million in new spending.

"Labour's claim that its policy will benefit 86,000 children by up to $5,000 each is rubbish. Only 22,000 three-and four-year-olds attend community-based centres that charge fees. They are the only children who will benefit from Labour's policy and their parents will lose their childcare subsidy to pay for it.

"Families with pre-school children will be much better off under a National Government that provides direct assistance through the tax system to families and supports whatever choices they make to suit their individual circumstances," says Mr English.


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