The reason why early childhood education and care (ECEC) is one of the hottest topics from this week’s Federal Budget and Budget Reply speeches is because it impacts every Australian.
Even before we get to the lifelong benefits for children, it is clear that our workforce hinges on parents having access to affordable, stable, high-quality early learning so they can take up jobs and provide for their families.
ECEC helps parents find work, stay in work, work more hours and keep businesses moving.
This is more important than ever at this moment, when Australian families are increasingly financially insecure, and our country is in the worst recession in living memory.
We know that getting people into jobs and easing the financial burden on families needs to be the immediate priority for policymakers.
Optimising the childcare subsidy (CCS) is the answer to achieve this.
The current system benefits a lot of families but it contains barriers to workforce participation that must be addressed. Our latest fact sheet explains how parents and especially women are held back from working more hours, causing families to miss out on potential earnings and impacting job creation.
The Front Project has provided recommendations to overcome this challenge and while we hoped the speeches this week would reflect more of the solutions put forward, they did contain some welcome announcements.
The Opposition Leader’s proposal to remove the CCS cap and lift the maximum subsidy rate will help remove disincentives for parents to work and improve children’s access to early learning.
It is critical that the benefits of these changes are not adversely affected by rising fees, so the ACCC will play a key role in addressing this.
We can assist even more families – especially those who stand to benefit the most from early learning – by increasing the maximum subsidy further to 95% and ensuring all families receive some subsidy, regardless of what they earn.
Improving access to ECEC will only grow in importance as we move through the next waves of the recession. You don’t need to have children or grandchildren to understand that all Australians stand to benefit from the double dividend that investment in early learning delivers – and a strong return is exactly what we should be aiming to achieve from investments right now.
We understand that the changes we want to see require sophisticated reform to be effective, and support from all sides of politics to be implemented.
We will continue our work to see a stronger early learning system for Australia, and advocate for the children, parents and carers whose families rely on it; teachers and educators who are the lifeblood behind it; and employers and businesses whose workforces cannot operate without it.