ACA and The Parenthood say Budget has failed to provide certainty on Universal Access
The lack of certainty around ongoing funding for the Universal Access program, designed to give every four year old access to a quality preschool education for 600 hours in the year before school, is disappointing, both the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) and The Parenthood have said.
ACA said they commended the Federal Government for extending the national agreement to the end of 2020, welcoming the injection of $450 million dedicated to an additional year of funding for the program, but that the failure to extend the program beyond 2020 was an area which needed attention.
Describing the current funding model, in which each state and territory Government takes a differing approach to the implementation of Universal Access as “seriously flawed”, ACA President Mr Paul Mondo suggested further reforms to Universal Access should consider a model which “follows the child” and does not discriminate by service type.
“With over 10,000 early learning services delivering kindergarten/preschool programs across Australia, and over 60 per cent (over 6,800 services) of these programs being delivered by long day care centres, it’s imperative that this funding is distributed equitably to reach all children.” Mr Mondo said.
Executive Director of The Parenthood, Alys Gagnon, said that parents, carers and supporters are still seeking real commitment to Australian children following last night’s Budget announcement, expressing her disappointment in the lack of long term, sustainable preschool funding.
“Families and early learning providers have been asking for funding certainty from the Government for years now,” Ms Gagnon said.
“The rolling series of yearly funding deals have left parents without certainty, and unable to properly plan their household finances. We are very worried that this lack of certainty may mean some children miss out on preschool, and that some children may face reduced learning opportunities.”
Referencing the recent release of the 2018 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data, Ms Gagnon said there was no doubt about the benefits to all children, but especially those from vulnerable circumstances, of two years of high quality, play based early learning.
Extending funding to three-year-olds has been described by experts as ‘the single most impactful reform governments can make in early childhood policy’, with modelling by PWC showing it would add up to $13 billion to the economy by 2050, Ms Gagnon said, adding that “an investment in preschool, and in two years of preschool makes sense, any way you look at it.”
Further information about the Budget announcements, and how they relate to the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, may be found here.