ECA says Budget fails to deliver, represents a missed opportunity to get it right for ECEC
The recent Budget announcement “fails to deliver for young children and early education”, Early Childhood Australia (ECA) have said, in a statement released earlier this week, highlighting the failure to address problems with the Child Care Subsidy and secure long term funding for preschool as a “missed opportunity”
CEO, Samantha Page, said it was disappointing that the Federal Government “has ignored the strong and consistent evidence that Australia needs to increase investment in early childhood development”, adding that the Budget was “a minimal investment when there is so much more that needs to be done”
Citing the recent AEDC data, ECA said the number of children commencing school as developmentally vulnerable (currently one in five) “won’t shift without dramatic change,” adding that there are “serious short-comings of the Child Care Subsidy system that are not being addressed.
“Many of the children who would benefit the most from quality early learning are missing out due to the complexity of the new Activity Test and problems with the Additional Child Care Subsidy for children at risk.”
ECA estimates that one-in-four families are worse off under the new Subsidy system introduced in July last year, saying “the Federal Government has ignored economists and education experts who consistently recommend lifting participation in early education will deliver social and economic benefits over the medium and long term, and that Australia can improve its education outcomes, lift women’s workforce participation and reduce childhood disadvantage by doing so”
The failure to consider clear advice from Indigenous organisations such as SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children, was highlighted by ECA as a missed opportunity, with a spokesperson saying “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are known to be at double the risk of disadvantage – two in five start school developmentally vulnerable. A measure allocating $4.9 million over two years to develop and implement strategies to increase preschool attendance rates among disadvantaged and Indigenous children, is inadequate.”
ECA and most early childhood organisations have consistently urged the Government to adopt the recommendation of the Lifting Our Game report to extend funding for preschool to three year olds, Ms Page said, noting the one year extension to the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education “fails to provide certainty and long-term planning for preschool and kindergarten”
Ms Page went on to say that ‘the budget also provides nothing to improve the quality of early education or address the serious workforce challenges in the early childhood sector,’ adding that ECA will continue to call for a Cross-Portfolio Early Years Strategy to recognise the importance of early childhood development, family support and play-based early learning across home, community and early childhood settings, and a Workforce Development Strategy to address quality and capacity issues,’
The statement as issued by ECA may be read in full here.