The Front Project welcomes the release of the Productivity Commission’s draft report into Early Childhood Education and Care which charts a clear path for achieving universal access to ECEC for all children in Australia.
Released against the backdrop of a worsening cost-of-living crisis, it is important that governments make a significant commitment to alleviating the cost to families by making ECEC affordable and accessible, whilst continuing to improve quality outcomes for children.
We support the report’s recommendations for every Australian child aged under five years to have access to three days a week of high-quality early learning and care. Notably, those on lower incomes to receive a 100% child care subsidy for the three days and dropping the activity test for these families, removing a significant barrier that has stopped parents entering the workforce. The report finds children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage stand to benefit the most, but it’s those children who are currently less likely to attend. These are promising steps forward in improving the ECEC system and addressing disadvantage, but we need to see these recommendations acted on soon to ensure no child is left behind.
The Front Project CEO Jane Hunt said, “We welcome the Productivity Commission's call on governments to play a stronger role as system stewards and to increase funding and resourcing to make Early Childhood Education and Care truly universal. Targeted strategies and investment will help deliver more equitable outcomes to children who need it the most.”
We need to act now to significantly reform the funding model, so it works for all children and families, delivering the benefits of early learning and enabling parents to work, thereby boosting the economy. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. The Front Project’s most recent Work and Play report found that parents and carers are making tough decisions shaped by their ability to access and afford early learning services. 47 per cent of families using paid ECEC have had to make financial sacrifices to afford care.
The Productivity Commission is clear in its recommendations for government to intervene. Together with adjustments to the funding model, they recommend supply-side funding to alleviate persistently thin markets and addressing ECEC workforce challenges with a suite of measures. The Productivity Commission report recognises achieving universal access can only be reached by boosting the number of teachers and educators. “Our research has consistently shown increasing the number of quality ECEC educators and investing in the sector are critical to universal access to ECEC, so every child and family benefits from accessible services,” Ms Hunt said.
The Productivity Commission report also states Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are under-represented in ECEC services because mainstream providers are not always available and affordable, worse still, they may not offer culturally safe environments. This report recognises that Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) can struggle to source adequate funding to deliver tailored programs that meet community priorities. We also strongly support the Productivity Commission report’s recommendations for ACCOs to require a sustainable funding model, which recognises their knowledge and expertise to deliver the ECEC priorities of their communities. We embrace the recommendation to improve the cultural capability of all ECEC services through publicly funded professional development for staff and better support for services.
The Front Project looks forward to continued engagement with the Productivity Commission and calls on government to embrace these recommendations to reform the early learning system to ensure it serves children, families, communities and the workforce.
Media contact: Stephanie Fitzpatrick | 0451 636 872