The Australian Government announced the new Child Care Package (the Package) on 10 May 2015, with the policy objective to deliver ‘a simpler, more affordable, more flexible and more accessible child care system’ and ‘to help parents who want to work or work more’. The Package comprises the Child Care Subsidy ($35.7 billion over four years from 2019–20) and support for the child care system, including the Child Care Safety Net ($1.4 billion over four years from 2019–20).
The Department of Education (the department) is the policy owner, accountable authority and lead entity with responsibility for implementing the child care reforms that make up the Package. The department engaged Services Australia, under service delivery arrangements, to deliver information technology (IT) services and manage the child care subsidy payments. The department also has a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Social Services for the delivery of information and communication technology (ICT) services.
The audit objective was to assess the effectiveness of the Department of Education’s design and governance of the Child Care Package.
To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following high level audit criteria:
- Was the Child Care Package designed to support the achievement of the Australian Government’s policy objectives?
- Have sound arrangements been established and implemented to support the transition to, and management of, the Child Care Package?
- The Department of Education’s design and governance of the Child Care Package was largely effective, except that the focus on key policy objectives for the Package in key documentation has diminished over time and ongoing oversight arrangements were not established in a timely manner.
- The department’s design of the Package to support the achievement of the Australian Government’s policy objectives was largely effective. The department considered impacts on key stakeholders in the design of the Package, implemented an effective engagement strategy and provided appropriate advice to the Australian Government at key stages of design and implementation. Objectives were developed for the Package that aligned with the Australian Government’s policy objectives, however, these have not been consistently stated in departmental documents and the focus on key policy objectives in these documents, such as greater workforce participation, has diminished over time.
- Sound arrangements were implemented to support the transition to the Package. Arrangements for the management of the Package are being implemented, with frameworks established for the Package’s risk management, compliance, performance management and evaluation activities. However, oversight arrangements for the management of the Package, were not established in a timely manner and are still under development.