Easing child care pressures

Recently, at a street corner meeting in Mosgiel, I was asked by a frustrated working father how we could make it easier for working parents to get affordable child care.

His wife was working too, in administration, but by the time they deducted child care payments for their two young children, they were left with next to nothing. It hardly seemed worthwhile working, but his wife wanted to work to continue her career, and to be able to upskill.

I didn’t have any easy answers, because I too have felt the high cost of child care, as the main breadwinner in our family. At times, we have relied on friends and family to help out, when my 9-year-old’s Dad had some night shifts in his roster.

Other times we have opted for after-school care, or just chosen for my son’s Dad to stay home to be his “taxi driver” as he gets more involved in after-school activities. We are lucky. We have had these choices. Many families — and especially many women — haven’t.

But all that is changing, thanks to new support announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the weekend. The Government is easing cost-of-living pressures for the majority of New Zealand families by improving access to and the value of child care assistance.

The latest policy in the Government’s package of cost-of-living measures reverses a freeze on the income threshold for child care eligibility that National put in place in 2010.

The policy will see 54% of all New Zealand families with children being eligible for subsidised child care assistance.

For example, a family with two working parents on $26 per hour working 40 hours each per week, with two children under 5, will be eligible for an extra $252 child support per week. That is a huge increase and one that will free up many people — especially women — to get back into work.

It means over 10,000 additional children will be eligible for support. Nearly every sole parent in New Zealand will be eligible for child care assistance.

Increasing the income thresholds increases both the number of families eligible, and increases the amount for many already getting it.

From April 2023, the Family Tax Credit will also increase by $9 a week for the eldest child to $136 a week, and by $7 a week for subsequent children to $111 a week.

Best Start too will lift by $4 a week to $69 a week. child care assistance has been underinvested in for more than a decade since income thresholds were frozen by National.

At a time when families are feeling the cost-of-living spike, we’re investing in what matters most by making sure child care is within reach for parents, and they have more support to cover other costs.