Families, Disadvantage & Early Childhood Education and Care in COVID-19
Disadvantage has increased during COVID-19.
The Front Project has looked at how disadvantage has changed as a result of the pandemic and recession. More children and families are at risk of facing disadvantage than ever before, and existing disadvantage is becoming worse.
“COVID-19 adds new difficulties for families experiencing hardship who are just trying to go about their everyday lives.” – Early childhood educator.
COVID-19 has changed the environments that shape children’s relationships, experiences and development. The flow-on effects of this could impact future opportunities for children, the wellbeing and cohesion of whole communities, and the strength of our economy.
Signs of disadvantage
- Not being able to afford the basic essentials – rent, food, clothing, health and hygiene products.
- Material deprivation – not having access to a computer or internet for work or study, not having a car or reliable transport.
- Not being able to participate in the economy – not working, paying tax or spending money.
- Not being able to participate in the community – being socially isolated and not being able to join in sports, clubs or community groups.
ECEC can help children and families overcome disadvantage.
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is key to addressing increases in disadvantage caused by the pandemic and recession. ECEC offers children education and nurturing, helps parents find work, and provides a key opportunity to see, understand and address early signs of disadvantage.
The Front Project recommends Government take immediate action to address the potential impacts of COVID-19 and introduce systemic changes to make sure all children can access high quality ECEC on an ongoing basis.
Recommendation: Prioritise policies that will address disadvantage.
- Make sure we have data about experiences of disadvantage during COVID-19.
- Ensure that all families can access ECEC during the recession, without having to worry about costs.
- Accelerate measures that will help families to access ECEC if they are experiencing disadvantage.
- Accelerate commitments to increasing the quality of ECEC by investing in the workforce.
Prioritising ECEC investments that target disadvantage would lower the risks of children and families experiencing disadvantage, reduce the amount of time that they live with stress and financial insecurity, and prevent flow-on impacts to children’s education, health and future wellbeing.