CELA report shows impact of pandemic on children
A new report, delivered by Community Early Learning Australia (CELA) highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, and the importance of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in the nation’s recovery.
Michele Carnegie, chief executive of CELA, voiced her concern that before COVID-19, Australia already had 750,000 children living below the poverty line, and that “we could easily see more than a million children living in poverty by the year’s end.”
Noting the profound importance of the early years in establishing the foundations for lifetime outcomes, CELA have joined calls for childcare support to continue to ensure vulnerable children do not miss out on vital care.
“What keeps me up at night is worrying about the children no one can see. Visits to vulnerable families have been cut, and we know families are hurting. Children are calling helplines with cases of increased anxiety and family violence, at record rates. These children and families need support” Ms Carnegie said.
Recent labour market evaluations have shown that more than 2 million parents have experienced disruptions to employment. Many more are experiencing reduced hours, and the economic impact of this, or have taken periods of unpaid leave to care for their children while schools have been closed.
With the likelihood of a return to CCS sooner rather than later, CELA outlined the challenges likely to face parents as they manage reductions or loss of income with a return to paying fees for education and care.
“When access to childcare corresponds with workforce participation, there is an impasse where finding work is challenging because of a lack of childcare, but childcare is difficult to access because of lack of work and income” Ms Carnegie said.
As well as being an essential component of restarting the economy, education and care with familiar educators will support children to address trauma, starting the healing process, and go some way to remediating disadvantage for children in families experiencing hardship.
“With so many families losing jobs and income, many children won’t be able to access early childhood education and care at a time when they are most vulnerable. We need to support these families in crisis, linking them to services and providing stability to children,” Ms Carnegie stated.
“The COVID-19 crisis has shown us the true strength of our nation is our people – we cannot afford to let down an entire generation of children in the aftermath”
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