Families still not signed up for subsidies

(Australian Associated Press)


Education Minister Simon Birmingham has braved a dozen toddlers at a Canberra childcare centre to remind hundreds of thousands of families they have a month to sign up to new subsidies.

The Turnbull government is combining existing subsidies for childcare into a single means- and activity-tested payment.

But almost half a million eligible families haven’t updated their Centrelink account details via myGov in order to receive the new funding.

While 673,000 families have updated their information, another 489,000 still need to make the switch.

Senator Birmingham says he isn’t disappointed by the low uptake but reminds families yet to sign up of the importance of updating their details to ensure there is no disruption to their payments.

“We know many families are time poor but this is about giving them the support they need and deserve to pay their childcare bills,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“And it’s worth the 10 minutes or so it might take to update your details because ultimately you’ll be hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars a year better off.”

The minister said although arrangements were in place to ensure families who failed to meet the July 2 deadline didn’t miss out, it would take time to repay withheld money once they had signed up.

Required information includes estimated income for 2018/19 and approximate work hours for both parents.

Under the new system, both parents must be working, studying, volunteering or searching for work at least eight hours a fortnight to be eligible for the subsidies.

Families with annual incomes under $186,958 will no longer face a cap on the amount of fee rebate the government will pay each year.

For those earning more than this, the annual cap will lift from $7500 to just over $10,000 a child.

Labor early childhood education spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth said not enough had been done to alert families to the impending deadline.

“It is (the government’s) responsibility. There is a lot more they could have done. They could have worked with centres who are at the coalface,” Ms Rishworth said.

“They haven’t done that. Instead they’ve done a slick advertising campaign on TV and nothing else.”

Labor claims one in four families will be worse off under the changes and the majority of those missing out are in the lowest two income brackets.


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