This blog post from The Hon Stuart Robert MP, Acting Minister for Education and Youth, follows the federal election candidates forum with cross-party leaders co-hosted by ECA on 2 May 2022. Each candidate was invited to share their policies and plans to support Australian children if their party wins this federal election. If you missed the forum, you can watch it here.
This 2022 federal election, we are calling on candidates across politics to support high quality early learning access, affordability, inclusion and stability to support all children now and into the future.
For more information on the ‘Early Learning Matters this election’ campaign visit our website.
I was pleased to join the Early Learning Matters Forum on 2 May 2022 to outline the Morrison Government’s record on early childhood education and care and hear directly from educators and families about their priorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a difficult time for all Australians and I thank early childhood educators and teachers for their dedication to educating and caring for our youngest Australians.
Our investment across the pandemic of around $3.2 billion in the early childhood sector supported families, kept services viable and ensured educators and teachers remained employed. Our Government knows the critical role you play in the lives of children in those early years.
One of our many important decisions through the pandemic was to protect the livelihood of Australians through providing training pathways.
Our $2.1 billion JobTrainer program, in partnership with states and territories is providing low-fee or free training places. More than 23,550 JobTrainer enrolments have been in early childhood education qualifications – Certificate III or Diploma – allowing us to continue boosting the number of educators.
The most recent data shows the first significant workforce increase since pre-pandemic times, with an additional 10,000 educators between November last year and February 2022.
In this year’s Budget, we are building on the success of the Boosting Apprenticeships Commencement Program and establishing a $2.4 billion Apprenticeship Incentives Program.
The Apprenticeship Incentive Program can mean up to $15,000 in wage subsidy support for early childhood educators undertaking a traineeship and their employers, and up to $5,000 directly to the trainee.
A strong early childhood sector also helps unlock workforce participation across the economy.
Under the Morrison Government’s strong economic management, unemployment is down and workforce participation is up, especially for women. Women’s workforce participation is near record highs at 62.2 per cent, compared to 58.7 per cent when we came to Government.
Importantly, we have worked with states and territories to deliver on our partnership under the National Quality Framework and to strengthen the delivery of preschool, or kindergarten, in the year before school.
We committed ongoing funding for the first time ever, through a $2 billion Preschool Reform Agreement to continue the commitment of all governments to 15 hours a week of preschool.
The Preschool Reform Agreement also shifts our focus from enrolment to participation and introduces an outcomes measure to look at the journey travelled for children in that year before school. The reform work is ambitious but important.
Through our once-in-a-generation reform of the Child Care System in 2018 and record investments since, we have improved access and made early learning more affordable for families. Ourt investment next year (2022-23) will be around $11 billion.
We are seeing our investment provide greater access for vulnerable and disadvantaged children; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; and children who require additional inclusion support. The Additional Child Care Subsidy covers up to the full cost of early childhood education for 50 hours a week, and is currently supporting more than 41,000 children.
On affordability, average hourly out-of-pocket costs for Centre Based Day Care are still 12.5 per cent lower than 2018. The Child Care Subsidy is higher for low income families so that those on low incomes have the lowest costs.
The latest Consumer Price Index (inflation) data showed that early childhood education out of pocket costs were unchanged in the March 2022 quarter, in part due to the implementation of our higher Child Care Subsidy for families with more than one child aged five and under.
We also removed the annual cap for this financial year and future years, so no family has an annual cap on the Child Care Subsidy.
Together these changes are expected to benefit around 250,000 families in 2022-23, with the average family better-off by around $2,260.
Increased subsidies took affect from 7 March 2022 and are making a big difference when families’ costs really add up with the second or third child.
We worked hard and were able to bring this measure in four months ahead of schedule. The opposition has done exactly the opposite, quietly pushing back its proposed start date for any child care subsidy changes to July 2023.
The Morrison Government will always back family choice when it comes to early learning, knowing parents are best placed to choose how to raise, care for and educate their children. A strong early childhood education and care sector in Australia provides parents that choice while providing children high-quality learning.
We are committed to continuing to deliver for Australian families.
Our Plan for Accessible and Affordable Child Care was announced on 1 May 2022 and is available here.