Letter To The Hon. Dan Tehan, Education Minister
RE: Children need access to quality child care - maintain FREE CHILDCARE and REDESIGN the early years child development system beyond COVID-19
5th June 2020
Our Every Child alliance commends the package of support you have provided to child care/early learning centres to maintain viable services during COVID-19. Every Child https://www.everychild.co/ comprises 70+ member organisations and 2700 individuals nationally. We support the growing call for you to extend free child care and redesign the early years system in Australia beyond COVID-19. The arguments and evidence for this request are compelling:
- Returning to full-fees will undermine the entire ECEC sector, the labour market and risk between 270,000-400,000 children losing access to early education and the quantifiable benefits that flow from it. Increased workforce participation is vital to steer Australia out of recession – child care is essential for this.
- A recent national survey of 2,200 families reported (http://www.theparenthood.org.au/) that in 42% of families at least one parent has lost a job or is earning less as a result of COVID19, with 16% of respondents reporting both parents have seen income reduced. A third of parents (34%) report they will need to reduce days or remove their children altogether if out-of-pocket fees return.
- The Activity Test will mean that many families that have suffered job losses will no longer be entitled to the subsidy they received before the pandemic. Out-of-pocket fees will increase which we know households cannot afford.
- ECEC services are currently operating at 63% occupancy which is well below break-even point. Returning to fees risks a further 20-30% of children being withdrawn making mass closures and job losses inevitable.
- For every $1 spent on ECEC $2 of benefits flow according to a 2019 PWC report. These benefits include the boost from parents being able to work more, but also the long-term cognitive and social benefits that access to ECEC delivers children.
The early years child learning and care system is not serving the children who need it most, well at all. All governments must co-design a child development system that gets every child ready to learn at school.
Immediate actions that are needed include:
- Increase the percentage of capped fees being paid to services
- Ensure all ECEC educators and staff are eligible for JobKeeper.
Dr Kirsty Nowlan
Co-Chair, Every Child