House of Representatives Speech- Isaacs Electorate: Take a Break Occasional Childcare Program 2011

The Victorian Liberal government is set to scrap an important childcare program called Take a Break from September this year. I want to clear up some misinformation put out by the Baillieu government. Take a Break program operates from our neighbourhood and community centres and provides respite for parents and carers of children up to the age of six, enabling them to participate in recreational and social activities or undertake volunteer or part-time work that would otherwise not be possible. It is disappointing that the new Liberal government has decided to cut the $1.9 million needed for the Take a Break program. The Baillieu government has also cut $480 million from the Victorian education department's budget.

The Victorian Liberal government is set to scrap an important childcare program called Take a Break from September this year. I want to clear up some misinformation put out by the Baillieu government. Take a Break program operates from our neighbourhood and community centres and provides respite for parents and carers of children up to the age of six, enabling them to participate in recreational and social activities or undertake volunteer or part-time work that would otherwise not be possible. It is disappointing that the new Liberal government has decided to cut the $1.9 million needed for the Take a Break program. The Baillieu government has also cut $480 million from the Victorian education department's budget.

The decision to cease funding of this program will impact on hundreds of families and leave many childcare staff across neighbourhood houses in Victoria with uncertain futures. The Baillieu government had promised to continue funding the program until the end of this year, but has reneged on this agreement also. Wendy Lovell, the Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development said in the Victorian parliament on 14 June that occasional care providers are required to deliver at least three months of the program from 1 July 2011 and can use the remaining three months of funding for transitional arrangements. This means that the Take a Break program is likely to end prematurely in September 2011 as centres are forced to meet the cost of redundancy payments to staff.

Previously this important program was funded by the state and federal governments. In July 2010, the federal government agreed to provide an additional $210.6 million over five years for the Victorian government to support preschools. In acknowledging the substantial increase in funding for early childhood education, the previous state Labor government agreed to fully fund the Take a Break program. The significant funding boost delivered by the federal government for early childhood education and childcare in Victoria is part of the Commonwealth's $20 million reform process that will see areas that were previously funded solely by state and territory governments receiving significant additional investment from the Commonwealth over the next four years.

On Monday many concerned mums, dads, grandparents and carers joined together across Victoria to express their disappointment at the decision by the Baillieu government to axe this program and called for the Baillieu government to commit to funding this program. Tomorrow I will meet with parents and carers at Chelsea Occasional Childcare Centre to discuss how beneficial the Take a Break program has been and how the decision by the Baillieu government to slash the program will impact on their families, staff and neighbourhood houses. I have written to state Liberal representatives Wendy Lovell, the minister, as well as to Lorraine Wreford, the Liberal member for Mordialloc, Donna Bauer, the Liberal member for Carrum and Inga Peulich, the Liberal member for South East Metropolitan Region in the state Legislative Council calling on them to demand that Mr Baillieu immediately restore the funding for this very important program.