Uncertainty around ECEC support remains despite PM and Council comments
The latest round of high level Government press conferences and meetings, held 27 March, referenced the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, but yielded no additional support measures, despite rapidly deteriorating operating conditions being experienced across the sector.
The ECEC sector had hoped that at the very least the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) latest Education Council meeting, held last Friday, would provide a range of solutions to protect the sector from economic collapse as a result of declining enrolment rates.
While no resolution was forthcoming, both the Education Council and the Prime Minister confirmed that the challenges facing the sector were understood, ECEC was a priority in terms of issues being dealt with, and that new arrangements were being worked on.
Education Council signals more support considered, but no action yet
The final communiqué of the meeting acknowledged the value of ECEC, its priority status and that additional measures were being considered without confirming what they were.
The Council did however reference existing stimulus measures that had already been announced and that, consistent with Mr Morrisons statements, they were “developing further safety net measures to support the economy including the early education and care sector.”
In the meantime the communiqué noted that Council had “agreed that all governments will continue to work with the sector to address the issues presented by COVID19” and that “Ministers have established a small working group, chaired by the Australian Government, which will provide urgent advice back to Education Council by early next week, on regulatory, funding and viability measures.”
Prime Minister echoes Council messages and states that measures not finalised
When the Prime Minister was asked by a journalist at the Prime Minister’s daily press conference if the Government would guarantee funding in light of the sector’s imminent risk of widespread closure Mr Morrison took the opportunity to share his thoughts on the matter.
“We’re working on a plan to deal with that with those many premises around the country.” he said “They are an essential part of keeping the economy running for those who are still part of it and for those who are still going to work and we understand that.”
He went on to add that “We are working through these issues, through a list of priorities, and that is one that is certainly very high to the top of the list, about how we’re supporting people who remain in work to be able to stay in work and their child care support is a key part of that” and that “we haven’t finalised those arrangements yet.”
The next National Cabinet meeting is to be held today 30 March 2020 after which further announcements are expected.