Parents find work’s not worth it

By Ellen Irvine

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The cost of childcare and the loss of tax credits because of increased income mean that some Tauranga parents say they are better off working part-time or not at all.


Other issues making it hard for mothers to return to the workforce include a lack of childcare available at night and on weekends, and a lack of casual daycare options to allow them to pick up casual work.


Vanessa Davey, managing director of women's business network Venus Groups, told the

Bay of Plenty Times Weekend that choosing whether to go back to work and put children in childcare was a big decision for women.

 


''Sometimes it doesn't work financially because their expenses aren't covered by the income they are going to make.


''Sometimes finances will be the first priority, sometimes it's just a feeling of making a difference and wanting to contribute in some form of work.''


Natalie Moon, of Arataki, is mum to Jordee, 3, and Milla, 9 months, and works 20 hours a week as a mental-health nurse.


Returning to fulltime work is not an option because the family would be facing a weekly childcare bill of about $500.


''It's just not worth it. I wouldn't want to go back full time.''


Miss Moon's partner is in fulltime work and the family doesn't get any Government financial support.


''For me to go back to work [after having children] was a given because we have a mortgage and we probably just fell under [the threshold] to get Working For Families.


''We are probably in the worst [income] bracket - we are the medium-income earners but we miss out on everything.''


Miss Moon's eldest daughter benefits from 20 free hours of childcare, and Miss Moon pays a total of $180 a week for both her girls to be in daycare at St Mary's Family Centre for 24 hours a week.


Welcome Bay mother Carly Shorter said there was a lack of daycares in Tauranga offering casual attendance.


Most daycares required an attendance commitment for the same day or session each week - which didn't work for mothers whose work was sporadic.


''I rang three or four daycares and found you have to put them in on [the day you're booked for] whether you have work or not,'' said Mrs Shorter, mother of Tommy, 6, and Anika, 4.


''If they are under 3, that can cost you up to $60 a day. And if you are getting $15 an hour after tax . . . it has to be worthwhile.''


The family chose Children's Garden in Welcome Bay because the centre allowed casual attendance.


Mrs Shorter said part-time work was sometimes hardly worth it financially once the cost of childcare was factored in.

 


When her children were young she chose to work one day a week for personal and career benefits - despite the fact it left her only $20 a week better off once childcare and Working For Families were taken into consideration.


Judea single mother Bronwyn Lewer said a lack of childcare availability at night and on weekends made it difficult to get work.


''Unless you have got a partner, it's so hard to find someone who will work on a Saturday or Sunday looking after kids.


''You can't expect family to look after them every weekend.''


Miss Lewer works part-time as a home-based carer.

Her son James, 5, has previously been in both homebased care and daycare thanks to 20 free hours' childcare.


The cost of childcare meant she would have been worse off financially if she had got a fulltime job.


''If I had to put him into fulltime daycare when I was working, it was going to cost me more than if I was on the DPB.''


New Zealand Childcare Association chief executive Nancy Bell said money was a crucial factor in parents' decision to return to work.


Access to 20 hours' free childcare once a child turned 3 significantly reduced the financial burden, although some centres required more hours and charged accordingly, Ms Bell said.


A lack of childcare options available at night and on weekends was an issue across New Zealand.


Options in this instance were home-based care, such as a nanny in the child's home, she said.


Jacqui Haywood, managing director of home-base carers Junior Explorers, said some carers took children on nights and weekends and on a casual basis.


''We have got lots of [parents] on rosters, like nurses or doctors, and when they are not working they want to be with their child. We support that.''


The benefits of home-based care were smaller child numbers, a homely environment, and the ability to build a close bond with the carer, she said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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