The peak national children’s body is calling on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to put additional funds into caring for disabled and low income children, as he devises his new “families package” over the summer holidays.
The peak national children’s body is calling on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to put additional funds into caring for disabled and low income children as he devises his new “families’ package” over the summer holidays.
This comes as those within the childcare sector are privately describing Mr Abbott’s announcement “huge news,” hopeful it will pave the way for further funding increases for early childhood education.
Early Childhood Australia chief executive Samantha Page said the federal government needed to concentrate on vulnerable and disadvantaged children into early childhood education as it revamped its approach to families. According to ECA, 15 to 20 per cent of children have special needs, which among other supports, require higher staff to child ratios.
“It’s an absolute priority,” Ms Page said.
While Ms Page said she as pleased that the government was going to increase funding to the sector, she said had “mixed emotions” about Mr Abbott’s announcement that he would divert funds from his paid parental leave scheme into childcare.
“I think it’s a bid sad that we had to choose,” she said.
Australia’s largest childcare provider, Goodstart Early Learning, is also calling for a focus on vulnerable children, arguing the group would benefit most from improving access to early learning.
“Studies show substantial long-term savings to government and economic and social benefits flow from [the investment in] vulnerable children,” chief executive Julia Davison said.
Both Goodstart and another major childcare provider, Guardian Early Learning, welcomed Mr Abbott’s announcement, arguing it would improve workforce participation.
“We believe that helping families balance work and the care [and] education of their children during the first five years of their life is more valuable than full salary coverage for the first six months of parenthood,” chief executive Tom Hardwick said.
In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into childcare, Guardian Early Learning has called for funding for 110 hours of childcare per child per fortnight, arguing the draft recommendation of 100 hours was not enough for full-time families.
Privately, others within the childcare sector described Mr Abbott’s Sunday announcement as “huge news”. Until the weekend, the government had been adamant that any changes to childcare would have to come out of the existing funding envelope.
Those in the sector are hopeful that the Prime Minister’s reference to a “families’ package” means that not only will money be diverted from parental leave to childcare, but that additional funds will also be found.
This comes as the government grapples with how to redesign Mr Abbott’s “signature” paid parental leave scheme. The current Coalition policy would provide women with 26 weeks of paid leave at their actual wage, capped at $50,000 , plus superannuation.
Options being floated include blocking the scheme to women on high incomes and reducing the total payout. Other options could include paying women the minimum wage, plus super for 26 weeks, which has previously proposed by Nationals senator John Williams and tentatively backed by Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer .
The story Give extra childcare funding to vulnerable kids: experts first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.
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Give extra childcare funding to vulnerable kids: experts
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