Standoff as childcare proposal set to gut social programs

A COMING political stand-off has emerged over an $850 million Abbott government Budget proposal to fund childcare for disadvantaged families around the country.

Only days out from the government's second Budget, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison announced the funding yesterday.

The funds would be made up of an additional $327 million over four years to provide extra support for disadvantaged families - contingent on the redirection of more than $500 million from existing social programs and the passage through Parliament of changes proposed in last year's Budget.

Mr Morrison said the extra support would help families on incomes below $60,000 a year, those facing financial risk and those with children with disabilities or at risk of abuse.

Although Labor spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said any extra funding was welcome, the Opposition also vowed to block any measures to cut existing programs to fund the government's proposal.

With the Opposition vowing not to pass the measure, the government will be forced to negotiate with the Greens and other Senate cross benchers.

Existing community support programs, the Special Childcare Benefit, and the Jobs, Education and Training Childcare Fee Assistance Program would be cut under the government's proposal.

Replacing them would be the new "childcare safety net" - comprising a new childcare subsidy, "inclusion support program", community childcare fund and "additional childcare subsidy".

Those programs would variously fund the training for childcare centre staff, additional short-term financial support for families experiencing "financial hardship" and lower cost services for indigenous families and low income households in rural and remote areas.

While politicians argued about the details, the childcare workers' union, United Voice, backed the government's plans.

Assistant national secretary Helen Gibbons said the plans would help children access services and reduce childcare waiting lists.


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