The Front Project recommends post COVID-19 funding system reform roadmap for ECEC
The Front Project, an independent national enterprise that focuses on the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, has released its latest report which examines a range of possible funding systems for the sector in light of the unprecedented impact of COVID-19.
The report aims to support growing efforts to ensure that future effectiveness, accessibility and affordability of ECEC services does not act as a headwind for Australia’s economic recovery.
Commenting Jane Hunt, CEO of The Front Project said “Our analysis balances aspiration with pragmatism to recommend a way forward that is feasible within budget pressures and sector limitations” and is grounded in the evidence on what makes a difference for children, and draws on our rigorous and frequent consultation with people who connect with the many different parts of the ECEC system.”
The resulting roadmap consists of a set of recommendations built around three specific time horizons in which different actions will be taken to evolve the current funding system into better serving its three priorities of facilitating workforce participation, broadening access to quality early learning and improving access for disadvantaged children.
Horizon 1 – Immediate term – Until October 2020 or until the Federal Budget
In this period free or low cost access to ECEC is provided for all children to provide a stable environment enabling services to respond to increases in demand as parents return to work and to mitigate the risk that a return to child care subsidy (CCS) creates undue financial hardship for families restricting returns to work and disrupting children’s access to ECEC.
Horizon 2 – From October 2020
Amend CCS to be more responsive and flexible to changing demand patterns, to improve access and affordability, and to prioritise support for vulnerable children by increasing subsidy rates of the CCS to 95 per cent of the hourly cap for low income families and tapering gradually and continuing free care for vulnerable children.
In addition, the Federal and State Governments should also work towards universal, teacher-led preschool in the two years before school via free or low cost provision of 15 hours a week for most children and 30 hours for vulnerable children, as well as introducing reforms to actively manage ECEC service planning and supply, and to solve the pending workforce shortage challenges the sector is expecting which would include pay and conditions improvements.
Horizon 3 – From October 2022
Continue improvements to affordability and include two years of universal preschool. Integrate with community support services for families including paid-parental leave, and maternal child health services.
Commenting on the results of the analysis Ms Hunt said “We know from evidence that we need a sector that is prepared with enough high quality teachers and educators, resources and infrastructure to deliver the outcomes we want to see for children. We want to ensure we make the most of the opportunities that ECEC provides to children, families and employers as we move out COVID-19.”
Notably, the report also included evaluation tables for the five different future directions that were assessed by The Front Project team namely:
- Direction 1: Return to the previous system (CCS)
- Direction 2: Adapt and modify (the previous system, CCS)
- Direction 3: Preschool reforms
- Direction 4: Two days of ECEC (provided free)
- Direction 5: Universal free ECEC (free childcare)
Each ‘direction’ was evaluated relative to four priorities required to ensure the future ECEC system has maximum impact ie: accelerating economic reform, having clear benefits for families, creates a healthy and viable ECEC sector and improves children’s learning, development and well being with the outcomes of each sub analysis informing the final overall recommendations.
The final report has been shared with the National Cabinet, Treasurer, Finance Minister and Federal and State & Territory Education Ministers to help inform their decisions about future funding arrangements for ECEC which are expected to be released this week.
To read the report please click here.