Childcare a hot election issue


Molly Magennis and Max Hatzoglou

A new report from Victoria University’s (VU) Mitchell Institute shows that a quarter of children in the electorate of Fraser begin school developmentally vulnerable, ranking it the third worst in the state.

The data indicated 26.1 per cent of children in Fraser were developmentally vulnerable while the electorate of Calwell in the north west was the worst at 32 per cent.

Co-author of the study Hannah Matthews said developmentally vulnerable assessments are done every three years and are based on a particular set of factors.

“They look at things like physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge,” she said.

VU’s Mitchell Institute education policy lead and author Dr Peter Hurley found a trend linking electorates with high rates of developmentally vulnerable children and a shortage of childcare places.

“While evidence shows early learning can overcome disadvantage and assist children to ‘catch up’ before starting school, this analysis shows a trend towards lower availability of childcare in the electorates with the highest rates of child development vulnerability,” Dr Hurley said.

Caitlin Robinson-Murphy lives in Footscray with her nine month old son Max.

She put her son’s name down for three different council child care centers the day he was born and was sure he would get into at least one of them.

However she was immediately put on a waiting list for all three, and was told her son was not likely to get in this year.

After scrambling to find a spot for two days of care a week for her son, Caitlin finally secured one at a kindergarten in Maribyrnong.

Ms Robinson-Murphy said she was concerned about developmentally delayed children coping and interacting with other children at school.

She said childcare was a major election issue when deciding how to cast her vote.

“When I saw what Labor was saying about the childcare subsidy and what they’d be doing that clinched the deal,” she said.

Fraser MP Daniel Mulino highlighted the importance of the early child care education system.

“Labor wants every child to get access to the wonderful benefits of early learning and care,” he said.

“Labor’s plan for cheaper child care will lower the cost of living for 96 per cent of families in the system.

“That’s why we will ask the Productivity Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of early learning and care, with the aim of implementing a universal 90 per cent subsidy for all families.

Liberal Fraser candidate David Wood was contacted for comment.