Which issues do you feel most strongly about as the election looms? We asked our readers this on social media – and you answered with five issues that are top of mind right now: the cost of living, health, education, childcare and climate change. So we’ve TRAWLED through party policy, and here we’ve broken down the policies on these five issues in this series in the lead-up to the election. Here is our final story: on childcare. How will the political parties support parents who have children in childcare? Read on, especially if you’re not sure who you’re giving your vote to just yet!
Note – we don’t have the scope to mention absolutely everything, but we’ll bullet-point the key moves and measures that we think you’ll care about, and we encourage you to head to the individual parties’ websites for more in-depth details.
Childcare looks different for every family. Sometimes babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers are in childcare full-time, some part-time, some not at all. It’s whatever works for you.
Childcare takes place in different environments. Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a formal arrangement for the teaching and care of a child up to the age of six years. Teacher-led early-learning services include Early Childhood Education and care centres (often called daycares), kindergartens (nzkindergarten.org.nz), and home-based care (usually in the educator’s home). There are also parent-led services (including playcentres) and whanau-led (largely Kōhanga Reo) services.
Those who choose to, or need to work in, paid jobs, sure need some help. Childcare costs in New Zealand are among the highest in the developed world! Full-time childcare for a child under three can sting families by as much as $300 every week. So what are the political parties proposing to do to help?
- Extend 20 hours of free ECE to around 40,000 two-year-olds (it was previously only for children aged three years and up), saving families up to $130 a week.
- Increase subsidies for ECE centres to ease the pressure of needing to increase fees.
- Introduce Paid Partner’s Leave: four weeks of paid parental leave for the partner of the primary carer (on top of the unpaid two weeks’ leave currently allowed for partners). This is over and above current paid parental leave for the primary caregiver, and means both parents could share the load during those taxing first few weeks.
- Continue existing WINZ childcare subsidies
- Introduce the FamilyBoost childcare tax credit: a rebate of up to 25% on childcare costs for families who earn up to $180,000 a year. Depending on the cost of their childcare, 130,000 low-income and mid-income families could save up to $75 per week ($3900 per year). The maximum weekly rebate would gradually reduce for families earning over $140,000, with a family earning $160,000 getting $37.50 per week. Families earning more than $180,000 wouldn’t be eligible.
- Continue with the current 20 hours of free ECE for 3-5-year-olds.
- Extend The B4 School Check (a health check for children aged four) to include education. ECE providers must check children can read their name, know the alphabet, hold a pencil, pick up a book, identify things that are the same and different and group them, match items in a shape box, and communicate thoughts and ideas. ECE providers that fail to contribute to these outcomes may risk losing their funding or licence.
- Increase unannounced ERO (Education Review Office) inspections.
- Crack down on ECEs that breach health-and-safety regulations.
- Remove regulations that ACT considers unjustified.
The Green Party would:
- Increase ECE funding, particularly for community-run ECE centres, kindergartens, and kōhanga reo, which are often underfunded.
- Transition towards universal free ECE.
- Improve teacher-to-child ratios.
- Extend 20 hours’ free ECE to two-year-olds.
- Support and resource a diversity of models for immersion learning in te reo Māori and Pacific languages.
NZ First would:
- Review the adult-to-infant (under-twos) staffing ratio in ECE centres.
- Enable isolated rural communities to participate in ECE.
- Establish a fund for research into best practice and innovation in New Zealand ECE.
- Bring more ECE Centres into the existing Learning Support Delivery Model.
Te Pāti Māori would:
- Ensure all Māori medium education (education in te reo Māori) is funded as equally as mainstream courses.
- Significantly increase operational funding for Māori education providers, establish a $200 million fund to support iwi education and training initiatives, and establish a hapu-based college.
- Increase scholarships for Māori to train as teachers.
The Opportunities Party (TOP) would:
- Give direct financial support to parents for help with early childcare and education.
- Implement an ECE model that requires the government to award contracts based on the quality of service provision.
That’s it for our five-part series Capsule Votes. See you at the polls!