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ECE ‘boost’ an administrative burden for whānau and teachers

26 Mar 2024

National’s FamilyBoost subsidy will likely not reach whānau most in need due to the administrative barriers in applying for it, while also failing to deal with the big issues facing the sector, says New Zealand’s largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa.

The policy, first announced in March last year, promises a rebate on childcare fees for eligible families who must make a claim every three months through the Inland Revenue (IR) to receive the payment.

Last week, the union called out the National Party for their FamilyBoost policy being missing in action at a time when the previous Government’s 20 hours free ECE for two-year-olds would have already begun.

"While any investment in ECE is welcome, this policy doesn't even begin to address the current crisis our ECE sector is facing,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa member and ECE centre manager Megan White.

White says families have already reported that the burden of keeping invoices and submitting these to the IR to claim the rebate means that many already stressed, time-poor whānau will not access it.

“When you have young children and you’re juggling pick-ups, drop-offs, and work, the last thing whānau need is yet another job. We already see the stress our families are under without adding to it. A universal fees-free entitlement would be much fairer and far less of a load on our communities."

The crisis in ECE is the result of decades of underfunding and an overreliance on the market to deliver services, which failed abysmally, resulting in high fees for parents, low wages for teachers, and some tidy profits for big centre owners, White says.

“Teachers are leaving for better wages in Australia, while the Associate Minister of Education has been foreshadowing cuts to pay parity for ECE teachers – he might as well give departing teachers a lift to the airport.

“We need to properly assess what’s needed to ensure our tamariki have the best possible start in life and our ECE teachers are truly valued and recognised for their mahi.

“The announcement of this policy at the same time as cuts to pay and conditions for teachers are on the horizon gives us some indication of how the Government is prepared to play political football with ECE, rather than to do the hard, in-depth work to deal with the big issues we really need solved.”