SNAICC submission says COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated ECEC weaknesses
SNAICC – National Voice for our Children recently provided a submission to the Federal Government inquiry into COVID-19 responses, based on consultation with its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early years network about the impacts of COVID-19 on children, families and services.
The pandemic, SNAICC said, “has exposed and exacerbated” weaknesses within the early childhood education and care (ECEC) system that disproportionately impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
While acknowledging that the relief measures instituted by the Government “have had promising results” with services reporting increased engagement of some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families following the introduction of free childcare and the removal of administrative barriers associated with accessing the child care subsidy (CCS), SNAICC remains concerned about how vulnerable families will be supported as Australia moves into easing restrictions.
A fast return to ‘business as usual’ would be extremely detrimental, a spokesperson said, adding that the advocacy body believes the design and readiness of the ECEC system to meet the needs of vulnerable families “has never been more important”.
In response to the need to carefully scaffold such a return – from free childcare to a system more aligned with the previous CCS model, SNAICC recommends a two-stage transition or recovery phase that:
- maintains free childcare for all children until at least the end of September with upward revised provider payments to match increasing demand;
- makes available at least 30 hours of free childcare per week for all children until June 2021; and,
- retains the increased number of 62 allowable absences until June 2021 to account for continuing uncertainty and unpredictable issues impacting attendance.
In addition, SNAICC called for an end to the Activity Test on a permanent basis, and the institution of reform measures including:
- The provision of at least 30 hours of free or 95 per cent subsidised care per week for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children as an ongoing measure to Close the Gap in ECEC attendance and AEDC outcomes.
- The introduction of an alternative community-focused funding program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ECEC services that recognises their unique role to provide cultural integrated early childhood development supports to children, families and communities.
- Establishing a workforce and service development initiative for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early years services with a focus on funding local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traineeships and qualifications, inclusion of services within the National Quality Framework, and new service establishment in geographical areas where families have high vulnerabilities and low ECEC access.
To access the full submission, which gives further information on the impacts on ECEC for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, please see here.