NSW announces key ECEC accessibility and workforce initiatives ahead of Budget 2022-23

NSW announces key ECEC accessibility and workforce initiatives ahead of Budget 2022-23

by Jason Roberts

June 14, 2022

The New South Wales Government has released some preliminary details of a set of new early childhood education and care policies designed to target an increase in the number of licensed places available for families to access in communities where accessibility is currently limited and boost the number of Early Childhood Teachers across the state

 

The initiatives are part of a wider package of reforms which are aimed at supporting women’s economic participation and supporting the early childhood education and care sector (ECEC) which is currently experiencing acute workforce shortages. 

 

“We know that childcare places are scarce in some postcodes, making it difficult for parents to return to paid work when they want. Improving accessibility to childcare by investing in supply will provide practical assistance to families with young ones,” Mr Perrottet said.

 

Referring to the workforce initiative Mr Perrottet added, “This package will open new doors to attract, support and retain the best early childhood workforce in NSW, to create a brighter future for families and children.”

 

Both packages will be included in the 2022-23 Budget Announcement on 21 June 2022. 

 

New fund established to support material increase in licensed places across NSW

 

In order to incentivise the private for profit and not for profit approved provider communities to launch expansion or greenfield projects the NSW Government will create a dedicated fund that will sit at the heart of the new process. 

 

The Affordable and Accessible Childcare and Economic Participation Fund will disburse grants to successful applicants to support them with the cost of expanding existing infrastructure or establishing new centres in targeted communities. 

 

Funding is intended to be used to expand infrastructure in overcrowded centres, establish new centres in childcare deserts, employ staff or reduce the fees passed on to parents facing some of the highest disincentives to return to the workforce because of childcare costs.

 

The Fund will receive injections of $775 million over the next four years with contributions from 2026-27 based on the recommendations of an as yet undetermined independent expert with amounts capped at $650 million per year indexed to CPI.

 

Funding guidelines and processes yet to be finalised but outline of plan now public 

 

The NSW Government has confirmed that all applications will be subject to a competitive process, commencing in financial year 2023-24, with support targeted at areas with low levels of childcare accessibility and where households face the highest financial barriers to working as a result of childcare costs.

 

However, as yet the precise processes and guidelines for approved providers to access the grants have not yet been determined nor have conditions likely to be imposed on successful  recipients although the NSW Government have committed to extensive consultation with the early childhood education and care sector as part of their formulation. 

 

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said early childhood education and care providers will be able to apply for funding to help deliver more accessible and affordable care.

 

“We will work with the sector on the detailed design of the fund to ensure it delivers the best outcomes for children, families and providers,” she added. 

 

$281.6 million package to boost NSW ECT and educator numbers

 

From a workforce perspective, the NSW Government has unveiled a plan to boost the number of early childhood teachers and educators in the sector via a $281.6 million workforce package that will include higher education scholarships of up to $25,000, VET scholarships of up to $2,000 and employer supplements for staff retention.

 

The move, which is akin to policies implemented by the Victorian Department of Education as they seek to meet demand requirements, is anticipated to encourage up to 18,000 prospective teachers and educators to enter the sector and assuage the workforce deficits currently in place. 

 

Ms Mitchell said this significant investment underscores the commitment of this government to the early childhood sector and will create lasting benefits now and into the future for NSW children, families and the economy. 

 

“I have had many conversations with early childhood teachers and educators, peak bodies, service directors, and stakeholders about the need to invest in our early childhood education and care workforce, and I am so proud that the NSW Government is delivering that support in spades today.” 

 

“Growing and supporting our workforce will help ensure our youngest learners develop strong educational foundations ahead of starting school and have the opportunity to thrive.”

 

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