A day after announcing the 7 September federal election date, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the Government will provide $450 million to help schools create or expand out-of-school care services, and help women to stay in the workforce.
The funding has been allocated under Labor’s Better Schools Plan and, according to Rudd, constitutes a “direct measure to help with the cost of living pressures and family pressures faced across the nation”.
Rudd said the initiative will ensure more flexible school opening hours before and after school, as well as during school holidays, and will help boost employment for mothers, increasing “opportunities for employment participation, especially for women”.
“For example, services could open earlier from seven in the morning or stay open later until perhaps even seven in the evening. Extra hours could also be available for vacation care during school holidays,” he said.
According to Rudd, the funding will go towards “music programs, supervised sports, homework clubs – the practical stuff which makes that time before or after school useful and a fun place to be as well”.
Under Labor’s plan, by 2014 up to 500 schools will have extended out-of-school care services with improved activities, benefitting approximately 345,000 children, aged between five and 12. The funding will also establish additional places in areas where parents need access.
The Government said families that benefit from the initiative will continue to be eligible for the 50% child care rebate – up to $7500 a year – and other child care assistance.
The Government also confirmed that the funding has already been allocated in the budget and that schools will be able to apply for grants in 2014, based on the needs of their local communities. Grants of up to $200,000 will be available to, for example, employ program coordinators to run new activities such as homework clubs, music lessons or sports programs.
Subject to the success of the plan’s implementation in 2014, the Government will consider rolling out an expanded program to cover all outside school hours care sites over time.
Childcare Minster Kate Ellis said the funding will give 68,000 additional children access to out-of-school hours care.
“The Government recognises that having adequate care solutions in place is the right thing for Australian children but it is also the right thing to boost our workforce participation and aid our economy,” she said.
Rudd claimed the new plan is a “very good initiative for Australian families and with the pressures that they are under”.
“Of course, this is on top of the school kids bonus which is already helping 1.3 million families, which Mr Abbott says he’s going to abolish, and also the introduction of Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme.”
Out of school hours care has grown by 64.2% since 2007 when Labor came into power, with the number of outside school hours care services available having increased from 5,125 in 2007 to 8,413 in 2012.