Budget 2016: Budget Delay for Families Package is Chance to Get It Right
3 May 2016 at 9:43 pm
Peak body Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has said the deferral of the Jobs for Families Package in the budget provides an opportunity to “get the package right”.
The package has been delayed by a year until 1 July 2018 after family tax benefit reforms, required to fund the child care package, were not passed.
CEO Samantha Page stressed the importance of the package but said the delay was an opportunity for the government to fix some of the problems.
“This is an opportunity to improve the package to ensure that all vulnerable children can participate in early learning so that fewer families are adversely affected by some of the anticipated impacts,” Page said.
“We do not agree with the rationale that harsh cuts to family assistance through Family Tax Benefit changes should be linked to increased investment in early learning. The benefits of investment in early learning for children, families and the economy stand in their own right.
“However, we call on the government to use this opportunity to cure problems with the package by fixing the activity test and ensuring all children can access at least two days of subsidised early learning.
“There is also more that can be done using innovation and technology to improve the package.”
While the package is being deferred, the Child Care Rebate will be indexed from 1 July 2017, the first time since 2011, providing some relief for families.
However the ECA said it would be two years before there would be significant relief.
“Many families have already reached an affordability ceiling and the delay of this package will mean it’s another two years before there will be significant relief – effectively $1.14 billion in additional assistance to families has been lost as a result of the delay,” Page said.
“This extra investment is needed to improve the affordability of quality early learning for children and families.”
The ECA said they were also concerned about the withdrawal and cessation of all funding for professional development in early childhood education and care, which was not addressed in the budget.
The organisation had specifically called for a new Early Years Workforce Strategy in the budget as the current strategy will expire this year.
No ongoing funding was announced in the budget for universal access to preschool in the year before full-time schooling, beyond the end of 2017.
“We are disappointed that ongoing workforce issues, like workforce shortages, skill development and wage competition have not been addressed,” Page said.
“The Commonwealth needs to invest in durable and consistent Commonwealth preschool funding arrangements to increase the participation of children in quality early learning.
“Australia’s international education performance will continue to decline if we don’t address the participation rates of children in early childhood education.”