10 April 2022
As Australians prepare to vote in the 2022 Federal election, the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) urges all candidates and voters to support our youngest learners and their families.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Australians have gained a new appreciation of the benefits of early learning and care. Families and employers have been powerfully reminded of the vital role of early learning and care services in educating and caring for children, enabling parents and carers to work and supporting the broader economy.
‘The Federal election comes at a critical time,’ said ELACCA CEO Elizabeth Death. ‘As Australia emerges from the pandemic, we want children and families to move from surviving to thriving.’
‘This means focusing our national efforts on building greater access to affordable, high-quality early learning and care for every young child,’ Ms Death said. ‘In particular, it means bringing children in from the margins, harnessing the benefits of early learning and care to support their wellbeing.’
The next Australian Government will need to change current national policy settings. While it serves many people well, the Child Care Subsidy system contains too many cracks, into which children and families can fall. The requirement for parents and carers to prove a minimum number of hours of work, study, or approved volunteering places an artificial limit on children’s participation in learning.
None of the benefits of early learning and care can be delivered without a strong workforce of early childhood educators and teachers. Addressing the workforce shortage in early learning and care requires a range of new policy measures, both immediate and long-term.
The next Australian Government should prioritise:
- Providing all children with a base entitlement of at least two days per week of subsidised early learning and care, regardless of their parents’ engagement in work or study
- Ensuring access to early learning and care, and all necessary support in those services, for children who need it most, including children experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability, and those with additional needs and disability
- Increasing the Child Care Subsidy rate by 10% at each income threshold, bringing the maximum subsidy rate to 95% for low-income families and the minimum rate to 30%
- Developing a rollout plan for a second year of preschool/kindergarten for all Australian children
- Investing in swift implementation of the new National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy.
‘ELACCA will be assessing the early learning and care policies of the major parties and we’ll provide a policy summary to the families of more than 330,000 children who attend the 2,342 services provided by our members,’ said Ms Death.
‘We also look forward to engaging in discussion with candidates, parties and the community during the election campaign.’
Public investment in early learning and care is essential for children’s development now, and for individual, community and national wellbeing and achievement in the years to come.
We expect the next Australian Government to bring strong commitment and funding to this essential area of national infrastructure.