The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous disruption to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Australians. The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous disruption to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Australians. Globally, it is a disaster of massive proportions. While the early signs are that Australia has been effective in ‘flattening the curve’, social distancing policies are expected to have a devastating effect on the economy. In response, the Commonwealth Government has put in place an extraordinary range of social assistance measures such as enhanced social security payments, free childcare and other measures with broad bipartisan support. As discussion begins to pivot to economic recovery, the Australian Government has asserted that COVID related social assistance programs are temporary and that there would be a ‘snap back’ to pre-existing systems after the pandemic.
This paper argues that ‘snapping back’ will fail to deliver the economic or social conditions to support Australia’s recovery from the pandemic through a discussion of the particular needs of children and families. In short, while most Australian children are developing well, a sizeable percentage have remained ‘developmentally vulnerable’. Pre-COVID policy settings had failed to address the conditions that produced those vulnerabilities. As the Prime Minister has repeatedly emphasised in his comments on education, there is a distinct window of opportunity to ensure that we support child development by ensuring that the conditions are in place to support children to thrive. In economic terms, if we want to benefit from the human capital in Australia’s children and young people we need to ensure that the policy settings are in place. We cannot and should not ‘snap back’.
The objectives of this brief paper is three-fold: (a) to briefly review some of the key challenges facing Australian children and families in the pre-COVID-19 context; (b) to put forward a set of key principles to guide recovery efforts; and (c) to propose recommendations that are aimed to address challenges as part of the post-COVID-19 recovery phase.
Suggested Citation: Walsh, P and Nowlan, K (2020). Build back Better: What does it mean for post-COVID-19 recovery? The Benevolent Society and Every Child. www.everychild.co