Early care for life must be a top priority

Australian families weighing up household spending might consider the cost of early childhood education and care (ECEC) is not worth it.

This cost is normally weighed against the income of the second wage earner, which almost always affects the working life of women.

The Australian government has responded by introducing legislation this week to lift the Child Care Subsidy (CCS).

While hip-pocket relief is crucial, it is not the only factor that needs addressing.

To create real, system-wide change for all families, the effectiveness of the mixture of different ECEC funding models that currently operate across the country must be addressed.

We must also address the challenge of attracting and retaining educators.

These issues are all connected to a central question - Do we have the right funding mix to ensure all children can access affordable and quality ECEC, and that supports a qualified workforce?

A well-structured funding model that keeps children and families at the heart of decision-making, and builds a sustainable workforce, will produce social and economic dividends.

We understand that belts will be tightened as governments continue to grapple with pandemic-boosted deficits.

Despite these challenges, ensuring children's learning and development outcomes, workforce participation and equity are the centre of policy-making is crucial.

And quality, accessible and affordable ECEC is the way to make it happen.

To support this, we have conducted research into potential funding types, levers and models available to government to sustainably support the system.

We need to recognise that different models meet different objectives and can put up different barriers.

As an independent organisation working to address disadvantage, The Front Project understands that this has real-world consequences.

For some 60,000 Australian children each year, the first day of school is the beginning of a struggle to keep up that too often ends in poor life outcomes.

That is why we must remove the barriers that restrict some of our most vulnerable communities from accessing and benefiting from quality early education and care.

This article was originally published on the Daily Telegraph and NT News. 

For more information please read our report Funding models and levers for early childhood education and care.