Families slugged for ‘phantom’ childcare on public holidays
FAMILIES and taxpayers are being slugged hundreds of millions of dollars for "phantom" childcare services on public holidays when most centres are closed.
The non-existent services have cost the nation $120 million in the past month alone.
The common practice of charging on public holidays while closed has netted centres about $80 million for looking after "phantom children" on Good Friday and Easter Monday this year, with a further $40 million added tomorrow for Anzac Day.
Many new parents are caught out by the "surprising" charges and face the threat of losing their child's place if they don't pay up. The industry insists it still needs to pay its workforce - regardless of whether centres are open.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said parents and taxpayers would "fully expect to only pay for services that are actually being used".
Department of Education figures reveal the Federal Government would have paid about $25 million a day in subsidies for each public holiday for the same time last year, while parents would have been about $15 million out of pocket.
Australians could be paying as much as $320 million a year for childcare services on public holidays, if the same costs were replicated on public holidays during the year excluding Christmas and New Year.
Senator Birmingham said the new childcare package, being rolled out from July 2, gave more flexibility to the hours per day and days per week centres must be open.
"In return it is expected they will consider changes that deliver flexible, cost-effective care and learning services for families," he said.
"That flexibility will give services more options to work with their families and to consider whether charging for public holidays is a fair approach."
Australian Childcare Alliance president Paul Mondo said the costs were charged because childcare centres still needed to pay their workers, even on public holidays.
Parenting website Brisbane Kids owner Ngaire Stirling said many new parents were surprised by the fees, but she understood the industry needed to pay its workers.
"It's not ideal for parents to pay for services that they're not using, given they're struggling with the costs already," Ms Stirling said.