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Child care transition good idea but families need more

Government and sector

Australia’s largest early learning provider Goodstart Early Learning says today’s announcement that free early learning and care will end next month was not unexpected, but it remains concerned that many children will stop attending if families aren’t given more support.

The national not for profit said it was shocked by the Government’s decision to stop JobKeeper payments to early childhood educators nearly three months earlier than expected.

Goodstart Early Learning CEO Julia Davison said the ECEC Relief Package, which has provided free care since March, has been a success as it supported families in a period of economic and community upheaval.

“We are relieved that families will have four weeks warning before we begin charging fees again,” Ms Davison said.

“More than half of our families have told us that they have suffered a reduction in family income since March and paying fees will be difficult for many. This may mean children do not attend early learning in the second half of 2020, a time when they should be preparing for the transition to primary school.

“We believe children and families will need increased support for twelve months to see them through the COVID-19 recovery period. While the activity test will be relaxed for 12 weeks for some families, there is no extra assistance being offered to those who have lost income.

“Thousands of children will see their access to early learning reduced and that will have long term consequences on their learning, development and readiness to start school.

“The removal of JobKeeper for early childhood educators nearly three months early is a shock to us and we are still working through the impact of that on our 15,000 employees.

“We continue to face uncertainty with a survey of our families finding 37% of responses would have to reduce their usage of child care when fees return.

“Only half of those families expected their income to be back to normal by September, and only 62% expected their income to be back to normal by December.”

Ms Davison said Goodstart would be closely analysing the details of today’s announcement and its impact on children’s learning, families, educators and the broader sector.
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