The early education and care sector shouldn’t support the Child Care Package
Simplifying something, anything, is one of the hardest things for writers to do. But we know when we strip away our excess words, when we strip away complexity, our words are most powerful.
So let me try this: The childcare package is bad for children. The childcare package is bad for our sector. The childcare package shouldn’t be supported by our sector. We need to act to stop its implementation – now.
Again going for simplicity:
- The child care package’s proposed activity test will reduce a lot of children’s access to education and care:
- Children’s access to early education and care will depend on their parent’s activities.
- Some children will have the amount of education and care they can access, reduced.
- How many children will have reduced access has not been quantified.
- This may make some services unviable.
- Parents in casual work will not know what their fees will be on a week to week basis.
- The activity test is geared to giving children 6 hour slots of care. Some children will have access to whole day care, some won’t.
- This could be the first step towards funding parents for hours of care used only and/or the establishment of specific 6 hour services for low income families.
- The child care package will result in a lot of program changes for little benefit:
- We will lose all access to funded professional development for educators.
- Aboriginal BBF services will lose the funding system developed for them in acknowledgment that the mainstream subsidy system would not suffice.
- There will be a new Inclusion Support Program.
- Support for services in ‘thin markets’ will be time limited and compliance heavy.
- Any service funding (outside of parental subsidies) will be competitive grant funding.
- The child care package is our one hit at being the focus of public policy. The implementation of this package will be seen as solving the ‘childcare problem’ and will remove us from being a high priority policy for the next decade. We will be left with unsolved and entrenched problems such as:
- The ongoing and unwarranted separation between education and care.
- Undersupply of education and care services in some areas.
- The lack of a planning mechanism for education and care.
- Lower than optimal quality of education and care – with not enough early childhood teachers and too high ratios of children to educators.
- Unliveable educators’ wages and no pay parity between early childhood and other teachers’ salaries.
- Increasing corporatisation of education and care provision and a shrinking not-for-profit sector.
- The package does nothing to establish the importance of early education for all children in Australia. It doesn’t lay the foundations for the development of a high quality, affordable and accessible education and care system for all children, with additional supports for children who need it most such as those with additional needs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait children, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children from low income families and children at risk.
- The benefits of the proposed changes are limited.
- Some families will be $30 better off per week.
- The Inclusion Support Subsidy may rise.
- The parental subsidy system will be simplified.
In 2009 the Commonwealth and every State and Territory Government agreed on a National Quality Agenda for early childhood education and care to ensure that “by 2020 all children have the best start in life to create a better future for themselves, and for the nation.” This gave us the National Quality Framework which promised children would have access to higher quality early education and care delivered by more and more qualified educators.
In 2015 we have a new child care package being proposed that delivers little other than cheaper ‘child care’ to parents who are working in paid employment.
Pam Cahir, the ex CEO of Early Childhood Australia, made a comment in a speech way back when the NQF was first being designed. She said:
“There are real opportunities to make progress now. To realise these opportunities we will need to be brave—we will need to tell it as it is, and not as we would want it to be.”
These words hold as true now, as then.
So, readers – who is ready to be brave? Who is ready to be brave enough to say that the increased investment in the childcare package is not worth it, given that the sector, and more importantly children, will miss out if it is implemented as planned?