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Push for parents to work as rebate disappears

PARENTS who stay at home and work only a few hours a week while their children are in childcare, can expect to lose their rebate in this month's federal budget.

After Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised a more generous childcare system earlier this year, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison gave details of how some of that generosity would be funded.

On Melbourne's 3AW radio yesterday, Mr Morrison confirmed the government would remove rules allowing some parents to work as little as one hour a week while collecting the childcare rebate.

The change comes amid reports a new "activity test" will also be introduced to define how much of their childcare bills parents can claim back from the government via the rebate and separate childcare benefit.

Mr Morrison said on radio the point of providing support for families paying for childcare was to help people get into work and remain working.

While he said there was a safety net in place for the most vulnerable families, those claiming up to 48 hours of childcare costs under the benefit, but not working or trying to get a job, should be doing so.

Asked whether the changes would mean par-ents who worked more would get more benefits, Mr Morrison said: "Yes, that's exactly what it means".

However, it would also mean stay-at-home parents could no longer claim back benefits for childcare, suggesting an "either or" choice would be put in place in the May budget.

The details released so far will form part of the government's wider reforms of the childcare system, following a Productivity Commission inquiry.

That inquiry urged moving to a single payment and cutting the number of hours of childcare parents could claim to 10 hours over two days.

While Mr Morrison has not detailed the specifics of the changes, some reports have suggested plans may be in the works to limit claimable hours to 12 hours over two days.

It remains unclear how much the childcare reforms will cost the government, but some estimates have put reforms at $4-5 billion, in excess of the now-abandoned $3.3 billion paid parental leave scheme.

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