ECEC connection program loses funding just before Christmas
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Uniting Fairfield Links to Early Learning program facing pre-Christmas funding cut

Uniting Fairfield Links to Early Learning program facing pre-Christmas funding cut

by Freya Lucas

December 21, 2023

Families living in and around the south west Sydney suburbs of Campbelltown, Liverpool, Bankstown and Fairfield are concerned about the timing of a funding announcement for the popular Uniting Fairfield Links to Early Learning program, with funding for the program to be cut just two days before Christmas.


The Supporting Families into Early Childhood Education (SFiECE) program works with some of the most disadvantaged families in the State who regularly face a range of different barriers – financial, language, geographical, health, transport – when it comes to accessing and sustaining quality early learning and care for their children.


“We know the Government really cares about every family in NSW having access to quality early childhood education and care and they understand why that’s so important, so we’re bewildered by the decision it has taken to cut the funding for this incredibly important program at this time,” Emma Maiden, General Manager of Advocacy and External Relations at Uniting NSW.ACT said.


Research shows that the children who will benefit most from quality early learning and care are the ones least likely to have access to it or stay with it long term.  In NSW in 2018, over 10 per cent of children enrolled in Early Learning attended for less than 15 hours per week. These were children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and other disadvantaged communities.


“In just over two years, this vital program has facilitated nearly 200 enrolments of children in early learning services in south west Sydney – that’s the equivalent of seven or eight kindergarten classrooms full of children who would otherwise miss out on quality early learning and care,” Ms Maiden added.


In a statement from Uniting NSW/ACT, the charity intimated that the funding cut was owing to the program being part of an “unsuccessful pilot.” 


“The Government saying this program was part of an unsuccessful pilot is a highly selective interpretation that leaves behind families experiencing disadvantage in south west Sydney, arguably the area of highest need in NSW,” Ms Maiden said. 

“SFiECE was run by four different organisations in four different locations: South-West Sydney (Uniting); Cessnock; Walgett/Coonamble and Kempsey. Two areas didn’t reach their targets due to a shortage of early learning placements (they still enrolled over 120 children.),” she added. 


“We work with families on low incomes, migrants, those living with a disability, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families using a variety of different supports to help them connect to early learning options for their kids and support them to maintain that enrolment. This program ensures that no child is left behind and every child, regardless of their background, geography, or circumstances, can access critically important early learning.”


“It’s a program that works. So why would you cut its funding? And why two days before Christmas?” she asked. 


“We’re not quite sure why this service appears to have been put on Santa’s naughty list, but we need it back where it belongs – fully funded, up and running and ready, in 2024, to keep helping local families.”

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