ECEC peak bodies respond to a Budget that holds little promise for the sector
Early childhood education and care peak bodies including Early Childhood Australia (ECA), Thrive by Five and the Australian Education Union (AEU) have responded to last night’s Federal Budget, with a consensus that the Budget overlooked key issues for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.
“Children, particularly young children, barely rate a mention in the Federal Budget 2022,” ECA CEO Samantha Page said, critical of the Government for failing to recognise the cumulative impact on children from the pandemic and the frequency of natural disasters affecting their communities. Children are also largely missing in major initiatives to help families under economic pressures, prevent and respond to family violence and support mental health, she added.
The AEU described the Budget as “incredibly disappointing”, saying that the early education of Australia’s children is critically important, and this budget has failed to deliver on Universal Access of preschool for the two years before school.
Speaking on behalf of Thrive by Five former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the Budget was a missed opportunity to invest properly in high-quality early childhood education as a key driver for easing cost of living pressures and supporting women and children.
“Out of pocket early learning costs have gone up by nearly 10 per cent over the past two years and yet this Budget fails to make childcare more affordable,” he said.
Provisions for ECEC workforce development
The AEU was also critical of the lack of investment in the vocational education and training (VET) sector, which has direct impacts on the availability of highly skilled ECEC professionals, saying “Australia’s national skills pipeline is in complete disarray after a decade of funding cuts to VET. Yet the Morrison Government does not see the nation’s worsening skills crisis as a priority with the Federal Budget failing to mention TAFE at all.”
Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the newly announced Australian Apprentices Incentives Program “will do absolutely nothing to address the structural challenges with the national skills pipeline and certainly does not prioritise TAFE.”
Mr Weatherill echoed her concerns, noting that the Budget failed to invest in Australia’s early childhood workforce which he described as being in crisis, with record vacancies and educators leaving at an unprecedented pace.
“The sector was looking to the government to recognise this with improved wages, conditions, training and professional support. But that hasn’t happened, which will mean longer waiting lists for families as centres struggle to attract and retain sufficient educators.
“Fixing the early learning system is the type of reform that will define this generation of political leaders, contribute to greater gender equality and set Australia on a trajectory of economic growth unmatched in our nation’s history,” Mr Weatherill added.
CCCF boost not enough, Page says
While ECA welcomed the Budget 2022 measure to invest $19.4 million over five years through the Community Child Care Fund to fund up to 20 new early childhood services in remote and regional areas where there is limited access to, or no child care, the peak body believes the measure will have “a very modest impact” on the accessibility issues facing many families—including those in capital cities.
The recent review of the Government’s Child Care Package revealed limited impact on improving access and disproportionate limiting impacts for children and families experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability. The Mitchell Institute report, Childcare Deserts & Oases: How accessible is childcare in Australia?, also highlighted the growing disparity of access to centre-based ECEC depending on postcode.
“More needs to be done to ensure every child, regardless of location or household income, has access to a high-quality early education,” Ms Page said.
For The Sector’s overview of the Budget as it relates to ECEC please see here.
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