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Family Boost Policy Could Miss Target Group

Kindergartens Aotearoa welcomes the news that the government is trying to help parents with childcare fees but is concerned that many families will miss out because of the way the scheme is designed and administered.

The government’s family boost policy plans to give parents tax rebates of up to $75 per week if they spend $300 a week on childcare, but parents need to pay the fees, keep receipts and then claim the money back through My IRD.

The scheme would only refund 25 per cent of fees paid.

It also could not go to, for example, grandparents who pay fees.

Kindergartens Aotearoa is a collective of six regional kindergarten associations around the country that operate more than 300 of New Zealand’s kindergartens, catering for 14,000 children each day, from Auckland’s North Shore to Balclutha.

Spokesperson Sherryll Wilson says families who cannot afford the fees to start with will not be able to benefit from this policy.

Nor will families who do not have good English language skills or computer access find it easy to get the rebates.

Kindergartens have a philosophy of providing affordable education with low or no fees for most families.

“Our experience is many families find systems such as My IRD hard to navigate, and may not be able to access the refund,” says Sherryll Wilson.

“We expect our teachers will need to explain this policy to families and help them access it, which will add another administrative task onto services.”

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There are no fees controls for services, and for those families that pay high fees that can benefit from the maximum $75 per week, there is nothing to stop profit-oriented centres from putting up fees by a similar amount.

A better use of taxpayer money is to pay services and prohibit centres from charging fees in the first place, as already happens with the 20 hours free system.

A previous plan to offer 20 hours free to 2-year-olds was expected to save all families with children that age around $135 per week. Kindergartens welcomed that policy which was likely to be effective and encourage enrolments across all communities. Now that it’s been scrapped, low-cost services such as kindergartens are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

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