NEW Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has come under fire after changes to the National Occasional Care Program which has seen 360 placements and funding of $300,000 axed in his electorate.
Opposition Federal spokeswoman for Early Childhood Education and Development, Amanda Rishworth, said the cuts impacted on a number of regional communities in Victoria.
There were 143 providers across Victoria with 23 specifically in Wannon, Mr Tehan’s electorate.
Ms Rishworth said the NOCP was an initiative between the federal and some state governments to provide seasonal and sessional care in areas where child care centres were in low supply or unviable.
It commenced in 2014 under the Abbott Government.
She said the NOCP allowed parents to participate in a range of day-to-day activities, including work, study, respite or medical appointments.
Ms Rishworth said funding recently expired leaving families across rural and regional Australia without flexible care arrangements.
"Without critical funding to these providers they cannot be guaranteed to provide occasional care to the families who require it most," she said.
" This is the minister for education’s own electorate, which is now without this crucial funding.
"He needs to explain to families why this funding was cut. Why didn’t the minister stick up for families before this funding was axed?
"Occasional care allows families to access care when they need it most - be it for work, respite or medical appointments and the Liberal Government has cut its funding.
"Cutting this funding will make it harder for families in regional areas to access early education. The minister has let local families down," she claimed.
Mr Tehan said the funding was never ongoing.
“The Federal Government funding provided to the Victorian government for the national partnership agreement for the NOCP was never permanent and was always due to end this year," he said.
"The Federal Government’s child care reforms that came into effect from July 2 have made the system better, fairer and more accessible for providers in Wannon.
"Labor are trying to scare vulnerable people with their lies because the facts tell a different story," he said.
Under the NOCP the Victorian and South Australian governments provide 45 per cent of the cost of the program.
The program expired on June 30 with the implementation of the new child care package.
Under that package all previously child care benefit approved occasional care services are now eligible to become child care subsidy approved, without the previous restrictions on their hours of operation.
Neighbourhood Houses, not previously CCB approved, can access subsidy income on behalf of their families if they become approved to administer the CCS, which requires them to meet state licencing requirements.
The government has also lifted the cap on the number of approved occasional care places, with services able to offer as many child care places as their state or territory licence allows.
The education department has been in discussions with some services about how they can move into the new system, including with the association representing Neighbourhood Houses.