A Canberra-based not-for-profit focusing on early education and care is all praises for the federal government’s decision to invest in the sector, but claims that many low-income families and children will miss out on the benefits of this investment.
Communities@Work CEO Lee Maiden said the $1.7 billion boost to funding will increase the maximum Child Care Subsidy (CCS) rate from 85% to 95% for families with more than one child in long day early education and care services, and will also remove the annual fee cap.
However, Maiden is hoping for more.
“Communities@Work supports all policies that help families and children access affordable, high-quality early education and care. We welcome the changes announced to the Child Care Subsidy system, which will remove some of the disincentives for participation in the workforce and provide many families – especially women – more opportunity to build their careers,” Maiden said.
“Unfortunately, many low-income families and children experiencing disadvantage are much less likely to attend Early Education and Care due to the costs. For vulnerable children already experiencing disadvantage, the social, emotional, and economic benefits of quality early education and care are profound,” she said.
Maiden said she is looking for “further simplification and improvement” to the Child Care Subsidy system, with a special focus on reducing out of pocket expenses for low-income families with vulnerable children.
Currently in the ACT, one in five children are developmentally vulnerable when entering school.
For our community, family and children, the return on investment from consistent and sustainable public investment in the early education and care sector is one of the highest returns from any form of public investment in education or social services.”
Another important issue is the workforce crisis that is currently hitting the Early Education and Care sector.
Kellie Stewart, Communities@Work’s Director of Children’s Services emphasised the current shortage of qualified educators, saying the workforce crisis is impacting the early education and care sector across Australia.
“It’s really unfortunate, but sometimes we simply cannot offer families a place in our service or we can’t offer all of the days their children require. We are continually recruiting and training new educators, but we are simply unable to keep up with demand,” Stewart said.
Communities@Work invests significantly in training and ongoing professional development through its Registered Training Organisation. They have also established mentoring and coaching networks for educators, and have won the Large Employer of the Year at the ACT Training Awards two years running.
“We work hard to ensure we attract, train and retain the highest quality educators, and we strive to be an employer of choice, offering values-based employment, with meaningful and appealing employee benefits”, Maiden said.
“With this announcement, we anticipate more families will be wanting education and care, and to ensure we can meet this growing demand, we need further investment to support the ongoing training and professional development of educators.
“Communities@Work will continue to support families and our community in as many ways as possible. For instance, we are investing in expanding our community food pantries and other support services to meet anticipated growing demand. We have launched new outreach and connection programs to empower people to build community capacity and resilience. And we will support families and children right across our Children’s Services.”
We encourage the Australian Government to further simplify and support this sector, with the goal of every Australian child being able to access high-quality early education and care,” she said.