ECA calls on new Coalition Government to take action on child poverty and disadvantage
Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has congratulated the re-elected Liberal–National Coalition Government on its election success, urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to harness his majority in the Australian Parliament to take action on reducing child poverty and educational disadvantage.
With an estimated 731,000 Australian children living in poverty, ECA emphasised that the negative impact of child poverty can last a lifetime. Around 40 per cent of all children experiencing poverty in Australia are living in single parent households, meaning measures undertaken by the Coalition to address child poverty, and make work more accessible for single parents, could have a large impact on changing the face of child poverty in Australia.
ECA drew on 2018 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) findings, highlighting that one in five young children are developmentally vulnerable when they start school, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are twice as likely to experience disadvantage in educational settings. ECA CEO Sam Page said there was clearly more work to be done to address the AEDC findings, committing to work with the Morrison government to turn this around.
Ms Page directed attention to a recent position paper released jointly by ECA and SNAICC — National Voice for our Children — Working together to ensure equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the early years, which she said can “serve as a good starting point”.
ECA outlined its hope that this term will see the Coalition Government act on the recommendations identified in the Working together report, which have been endorsed by more than 40 leading child welfare, education and research organisations.
“We welcome the Coalition’s commitment to continue providing funds so all children can attend 15 hours per week of preschool in the year before school. We hope that this will eventually be extended to two years before school, as this has the potential to substantially reduce the proportion of children at risk of experiencing difficulties at school,” added Ms Page.
She indicated that ECA will continue to advocate for changes to the Child Care Subsidy to improve access to quality early learning for children at risk of educational disadvantage, and to improve continuity of access for families with uncertain or irregular employment engagement.
“As the architects of the subsidy system, the Coalition is well placed to make much-needed changes and to address challenges such as workforce shortages and inconsistencies in quality regulation,” Ms Page said.
In conclusion, ECA outlined its work on a National Early Language and Literacy Strategy, in conjunction with other national organisations.
“Early language and literacy difficulties are three times more common in children from disadvantaged backgrounds, thereby perpetuating social inequities across generations. There is an opportunity for the next Federal Education Minister to take a leadership role in this important issue,” Ms Page said.