Labor and Greens back community call to retain free childcare in wake of CCS return
Representatives from both The Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have backed a community call to retain free childcare in light of Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan’s indication that the Government will revert to a fee-paying model, potentially as early as next month.
Amanda Rishworth, ALP Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, said an abrupt return to the child care subsidy (CCS) system would be “a huge financial hit to families” and may cause parents to un-enrol their children, which would in turn threaten the viability of providers.
The work activity and income tests of the CCS model, she added, will also make it “incredibly difficult” for many families to access care during this time of economic downturn.
Supporting this perspective, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Greens spokesperson for education, said it was time for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector to be recognised as an essential service, one which should be available to anyone who needs it, “not just those who can afford it”.
The provision of free access to education and care, she continued, has been “a huge step forward” for families, one which she believes should be made permanent.
Ms Rishworth touched on the challenges faced by the sector in the implementation of the ECEC Relief Package, noting that there “is no doubt the Government’s current system, implemented in response to COVID-19, is causing serious problems for some families and providers. However a reversion to the Government’s old system is not a silver bullet – it will fail to deliver affordable child care for families and fail to deliver certainty for providers.”
The Relief Package, she said, has left many families without access to care, providers “struggling to stay afloat” and educators without jobs.
However, she added, under the CCS model, early learning and care “was fast becoming unaffordable and inaccessible”.
More than ever, Ms Rishworth continued, families are in need of accessible and affordable child care as many continue to face financial strain and a reduced earning capacity. Providers also need certainty and support to continue educating and caring for children.
“The Government has an opportunity to properly fund and implement a system that delivers affordable and accessible child care, to enable parents to work and children to get the quality early education they deserve. If this is not done properly and parents cannot access or afford the care they need, it will be a handbrake on our economic recovery” she concluded, calling on the Government to “chart a new course that meets demand, keeps the sector viable and enables all parents to access affordable care.”