Free childcare for 80 per cent of families in Greens pre election promise
In an ambitious pre election policy initiative announcement the Australian Green Party has committed to introducing sweeping changes in relation to how much families will have to pay for early education and around extending the number of funded hours available for three and four year olds attending preschool or kindergarten in the years before school.
Titled “Affordable, quality and accessible early childhood education and care (ECEC)” the policy initiative focuses on five key areas:
- Abolishing the child care subsidy (CCS) activity test and introducing a new means testing scale for the child care subsidy that will see families earning less than $171,958 receiving a 100 per cent subsidy from the Government and those earning up to $351,248 a stepped reduction depending on income levels falling to 10 per cent.
- Extending Universal Access to all 3 and 4 year olds to 24 hours a week of quality early education regardless of setting on an ongoing basis.
- Allocating a portion of the Community Child Care Fund to quality controlled and culturally safe integrated services focussing on First Nations communities.
- Creating a comprehensive workforce strategy with key stakeholders to address challenges of pay and conditions as well as the cost of studying towards ECEC qualifications.
- Committing $200m towards a grant fund focussed on reducing waiting lists by funding not for profit and local government centres to finance capital works or staff hiring to extend the number of licensed places available.
Commenting on Twitter Greens Senator for New South Wales Mehreen Faruqi noted “Childcare and early education doesn’t have to be expensive and inaccessible” and that she was excited to announce their “plan to give 80 per cent of Australian families completely free childcare.”
Greens announcement most progressive of major parties to date
The Greens policy commitments, which are expected to cost up to $20 billion to fund, have significantly raised the stakes in the ECEC policy arena ahead of the election.
At this juncture the Australian Labor Party has thus far committed to a Universal Access policy that will be extended to include all three year olds and will be an ongoing commitment. They have also committed to “a new push for better pay in women dominated industries (sic.) like early education.”
Scott Morrison’s Liberal Government has yet to announce any meaningful new ECEC policy initiatives in the run up to the election.
Leading sector advocacy groups welcome commitment
The announcement was welcomed by leading sector advocacy groups who highlighted that the move would make ECEC accessible to the largest number of children possible.
The Early Learning: Everyone Benefits Campaign, an alliance of early childhood services, education, research and advocacy groups, along with parenting and community organisations released a comprehensive response highlighting the announcement reflects five of their seven key election priority policy focusesses.
Samantha Page, Chief Executive Officer of Early Childhood Australia and campaign spokesperson noted that “It is positive to see that the Greens recognise the long-term social and economic benefits of investing public funding in the early years” adding that “Providing free access to child care for all families with a combined income of $171 958, with stepped reductions to a 50 per cent subsidy for families with incomes up to $251 249, will ensure the largest number of Australian children benefiting from access to quality early learning.”
The Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) also welcomed the announcement with Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Death noting in particular that “the Green’s policy supports our call for major parties to commit to ensuring every child has access to two years of play based learning” and that these policies “enable right of access for all children regardless of where they live or how much their parents work or earn.”
Further information about the Greens policy announcement may be found here.