Childcare fees costing Rocky mum more than her weekly wage
THE Federal Government's Department of Human Services rolled out a new Child Care Subsidy last month.
The new program was meant to be better than the previous system offering more support for low and middle income families.
But for Rockhampton mother-of-three Madeleine Perret, it has created more heartache than assistance.
Ms Perret is currently on her last two month's of unpaid maternity leave from her six months leave.
She was supported by Centrelink maternity leave but received her final payment last week.
Ms Perret is the mother of a four month-old daughter, two-and-a-half year old boy and nine-year-old boy.
Her two year-old son was in daycare, and the new charges from the fees, which came into place on July 2, have forced her to have to pull him out.
Ms Perret is a low income worker, employed by a small family business in Rockhampton.
She was looking at how much it would cost her to put her youngest baby into daycare when she returned to work.
"It was looking do-able and the subsidy started and it changed my fee," she said.
"It was going to cost more than I earn a week to pay for two children in care."
The hardest part was navigating how the new system worked and how it affected her.
Despite research, Ms Perret couldn't seem to find anywhere that broke it down for her.
"Not one person from Centrelink could give me a breakdown of how it worked," she said.
"I don't really understand it myself."
Ms Perret works a minimum of 20 hours a week, from which she understands she is only eligible for 72 hours a fortnight.
But these 20 hours are a split shift - she works from 6.30am to 9am, and then 2.30pm to 5pm.
Before the new changes, Ms Perret was entitled to six days of care a fortnight at a subsidised rate and was paying full fees on the remaining four days.
She has a partner who is employed full-time in the mechanical industry.
"Our combined family income is less than $90,000 a year so I was under the impression we would receive more subsidised hours,"she said.
Since the new fees were introduced, Ms Perret saw her charges change each week whereas previously she was paying a consistent amount week by week.
She saw fees jump from $100 to more than $300 each week, making it hard to budget and work around.
It was a system she couldn't get her head around or understand.
"I was told this is what is happening now, the fees are jumping now, they are all over the place," she said.
"The most difficult part is I really want to return to work, I do understand they are my children and I have to pay for them but when it comes to this it is hard."
As the new fees were sending her bankrupt, Ms Perret chose to take her son out of daycare.
"It was a really hard decision to pull him out but we need to provide for ourselves," she said.
"My son thrived at daycare, he has formed such a good bond with his educators, he asks me where they are and it's heartbreaking, how do you get a two-and-a-half year-old to understand that mummy can't afford it.
"I don't feel the government are in touch with the working class family."
The new system allows centres to offer hourly sessions, rather than a daily fee.
But given her split shift hours, shorter days do not help Ms Perret situation
"There is no option that is offered for split shift workers, it is still not a cheaper option at all," she said.
Ms Perret isn't new to the government system. She put her eldest through roughly three-and-a-half years of childcare, spending around $40,000 in fees.
"That was when we were getting fairly decent assistance from Centrelink back then five years ago," she said.
Having heard the frustrations of other mums, Ms Perret said the new system will force families to look for care elsewhere.
"Parents are seeking unqualified people," she said.
"What's to say something won't happen to them and mum won't be able to go to work.
"You can go and find a babysitter and just pay the same amount and get no subsidy."
At a loss of what to do next, Ms Perret has been left extremely frustrated.
"It is just not fair on us," she said.
"How did the person that pushed this policy forward think it would make parents lives easier."