Flagship research launched by The Front Project
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Flagship research launched by The Front Project

Flagship research launched by The Front Project

by Freya Lucas

November 20, 2023

Families recognise the valuable impact that early learning can have on a child’s first years, but finding suitable care is “expensive, and sometimes impossible,” new research from The Front Project has found. 


In the Work and Play Report 2023: Understanding families experiences and perceptions of ECEC research, 1,000 parents and guardians of children aged birth to five years of age were surveyed, together with educators and teachers from the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. 


The report revealed that families value early learning and care more than ever before, and view it as a key enabler to workforce participation, but that the system “isn’t fully supporting them”. 


“These families recognise the valuable impact early learning has on a child’s first years and beyond we need to go further to ensure all children have access to a quality education,” said The Front Project CEO Jane Hunt.


Just over 60 per cent of surveyed families agreed that the decisions they have made regarding the care and education of their children have come with significant financial sacrifices – an increase from 47 per cent in the organisation’s 2021 study. 


“Early learning has innumerable benefits in the lives of children, women, families and the economy and is an important way to address the impact of disadvantage. We must seize the opportunity to make it affordable and accessible for all,” Ms Hunt said. 


The majority of Australian families rely on some form of ECEC, with 70 per cent of those surveyed needing access to formal, paid early learning and care with 91 per cent saying it makes it easier for people to work or study and 86 per cent saying it makes it easier for women to participate in the workforce.


While the current funding system, the Child Care Subsidy, has seen greater investment in recent years, parents view it as complex and hard to understand, with a lack of transparency around fees and the big variances in fees between services, Ms Hunt said. 


“Their voices must be heard, and action taken to reform the early learning and care system, so it delivers for all children and families, and the sector.” 


Against a backdrop of cost-of-living pressures, parents also reported out-of-pocket ECEC expenses are not clear and they are having to make tough decisions about how many days they work balanced against the expense of securing care. 


Half of respondents said that once they factor in the cost of ECEC, it is “hardly worth them working” – this increases to 62 per cent for lower income households earning under $122,000 per annum. 


Almost half have had to alter their work arrangements to fit in with the care that they can find or afford, while 39 per cent stated they currently aren’t using any form of paid care, largely due to affordability. 


“Rising costs are impacting families who go above and beyond to give their child the best start in life, and it’s evident it has become much harder,” Ms Hunt said. 


“The Commonwealth Government is on the right track and has initiated important inquiries to set the path for a more inclusive, affordable, equitable and high quality ECEC system. The recent changes to the Child Care Subsidy have made some impact, but there’s clearly more work to do.”


Access the report here

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