Education funding cuts take toll on families

By Elizabeth Binning

Denise Irving's daughters Tabitha, 20 months, and Isobella, 3, have left daycare. Photo / Richard Robinson
Denise Irving's daughters Tabitha, 20 months, and Isobella, 3, have left daycare. Photo / Richard Robinson

Fears that families will no longer be able to afford early childhood education as a result of cuts in last year's Budget are starting to become a reality.

Latest figures show the cost of early childhood education increased by 11.7 per cent in the year to June - a rise the sector's union attributes to government funding cuts.

Paul Goulter, national secretary for education sector union NZEI, said the increase was significant and represented one of the largest across all goods and services measured.

"What it means is that early childhood costs are contributing significantly to overall inflation.

"It also means that for many families, early childhood education is taking a big chunk out of their income at the same time as they battle soaring prices for food and petrol."

Mr Goulter feared many families - faced with trying to pay for the basics - would be forced to take their children out of early childhood education.

"It's not a choice the Government should be forcing on families and it goes against their own rhetoric of trying to increase participation in early childhood education, especially for children in low-income areas.

"Early childhood education must not be something families are forced to sacrifice to make ends meet."

Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney had already heard of several families withdrawing children from centres as a result of rising costs. Often they were Pacific Island or Maori.

"The ECE increase is absolutely the fault of the Government."

Auckland mother Denise Irving said an increase of nearly $100 a month forced her to pull her two daughters out of daycare last year.

The centre said it raised its fees as a result of the increase in GST and general day-to-day running costs.

At $400 a month for both girls, it was more than she was earning so she left her job and cared for them at home.

"We are out west and travelling into town you have to consider all the travel costs and it just wasn't worth it ... It was actually costing me about $15 [to go to work]."

Once the older girl turned 3 in February and became eligible for 20 hours, Mrs Irving put them back into care but the costs were still too high. Now a family member looks after them.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said most ECE centres weren't affected by the changes. She also said centres, which are private businesses, had many options besides increasing fees.

- NZ Herald

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