Advocacy efforts seek childcare affordability
Helping to give children the best possible start to life is what the Smart Start campaign and its 26,000 supporters – from families to childcare educators – have set out to achieve.
Smart Start is one of Goodstart Early Learning’s advocacy initiatives focused on improving childcare affordability with greater Government investment.
In turn, Goodstart’s advocacy campaign coordinator Kate Fisher said greater childcare affordability would increase the number of children attending early learning programs, workforce participation rates and improve child outcomes.
“We know from modelling by PwC (PricewaterhousCoopers) that making early learning more affordable will also boost parent’s workforce participation, increasing productivity and that’s good for the nation,” Ms Fisher said.
Greater government investment would also tackle prevalent community issues with one in five Australian children starting school developmentally vulnerable.
“This means children are starting school behind in at least one area of their development such as communication skills and general knowledge or language and cognitive skills,” Ms Fisher said.
“Unfortunately, research shows that if a child starts school behind they are likely to stay behind.”
Three facts about early learning
1. Children who attend early learning are one third less likely to start school behind their peers.
2. 80 per cent of brain development occurs in the first five years.
3. Access to quality early learning keeps helping children right through the school years.
Ms Fisher said early learning was key to bridging that gap.
“Australian families are paying much more for access to quality early learning than in most developed countries,” Ms Fisher said.
“The cost of childcare is simply not keeping pace with the cost of living.”
“The annual cap on Child Care Rebate is still at its 2008 level despite a 50 per cent increase in fees, and the Child Care Benefit was last reviewed in 2007.”
She said this was where Smart Start came in.
“Smart Start aims to create broad community awareness for the importance of the first five years and calls on the Government for improved childcare affordability,” she said.
“Australian families are paying more for early learning and care than in other countries, because our governments are investing a lot less.
“We are working hard to make sure our political leaders and policy makers know that more funding and help is needed to ensure all Australian children get the early learning and support they need.”
Since Smart Start was established it has attracted more than 26,000 supporters dedicated to the cause – helping to spread the message about the importance of a child’s first five years and why greater Government investment is needed.
“Our campaign members have communicated directly with MPs, talked to the media, delivered a 16,000 strong petition to the Parliament last year, participated in vital surveys and have made submissions to Parliamentary committees.
“With the help of our supporters we’ve made politicians around Australia understand how important early learning is.”
She said the support from parents and educators has made a huge difference, with Smart Start keeping everyone updated on key political events, inquiries and media coverage and opportunities to have their ‘voice heard’ on important matters.
Right now, the campaign is actively seeking to outline to Federal Government the significant economic and social benefits to Australia if more families were able to afford quality early learning and childcare, asking the Senate to:
- Ensure the Jobs for Families Childcare reform package delivers more affordable childcare for working families and improved access to early learning opportunities for all children, especially disadvantaged children; and;
- Ensure no low income families are worse off – as a result of the childcare reform package – in accessing early learning opportunities for their children.
To learn more about the campaign, visit http://www.thesmartstart.com.au/