7 Nov 2022

$189m for childcare funding: ECE questions why boost is so far off

6:13 pm on 7 November 2022
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Photo: 123rf

More families are set to qualify for subsidies to cover the cost of childcare, but early learning centres are hoping more support will be announced for them, too.

A government funding boost of $189 million was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Labour Party's annual conference in Auckland yesterday.

The families of about 7400 additional children will receive a payment towards their childcare fees each month, the government predicted - and that was not counting the families with children already in childcare, who could now afford to spend more hours there each week.

Kidsfirst Kindergartens chief executive Sheryll Wilson said it would particularly help middle-income families.

"We have a number of our kindergartens that get additional funding from government, because of the low socio-economic communities they serve," Wilson said.

"But then there's an another area of communities that could benefit from additional funding."

However, with the cost of living already so high, she could not understand why the changes - kicking in during April next year - were so far off.

"My question is, why announce it now and then get families to wait six months... when these families really need support now," she said.

On top of that, applying for a WINZ subsidy was not an easy process, especially for families for whom English is a second language.

She hoped the system would be able to support an increase in applicants.

Home Based Association president Bethany Fox called it a "catch-22", with early childcare providers needing more resources to keep up with demand.

"Yes there's more availability to help parents and whānau, but we need more teachers," she said.

Fox said it would potentially allow providers to qualify for more funding, as children were booked in for more hours each week.

However, Montessori chief executive Cathy Wilson said the subsidies would not equate to higher profits for the sector.

"Our early childhood members are really, really struggling," she said.

"They've been absorbing more and more costs and not passing these on in fee increases, despite the impact of ongoing losses and lockdowns, illnesses and general day-to-day increases that we've all been feeling."

The subsidies would alleviate pressure for families, but the government needed to also support providers to pay teachers what they were worth, she said.

Victoria University's Dr Carmen Dalli said anything that would help families be more consistent in sending their children to childcare would give centres greater peace of mind about their income and ability to employ staff.

She said the sector was looking forward to the outcome of an ongoing Government funding review to tell them what help they could rely on going forward.

"I'm hoping that the government has other initiatives in place to deal with that side of the problem," she said.