Image: West Footscray Neighbourhood House

News Analysis

Disadvantaged children need early childhood education and care

Today’s Productivity Commission report on Childcare and Early Learning contains positive recommendations about increasing access to early childhood education for children at risk of abuse and neglect, according to the Victorian Council of Social Service.

“Children at risk of abuse and neglect benefit the most from high-quality early childhood education to improve their life chances, yet services trying to enroll and keep these children in care face a labyrinthine process of red tape, meaning too many children miss out,” said Mary Sayers, Deputy CEO of VCOSS.

”The Productivity Commission’s recommendation that services need reapply for funding every six months for children at risk of abuse or neglect as opposed to the currently mandated every 13 weeks, means services can focus on their primary purpose – ensuring these vulnerable kids get the continuity of high-quality care they deserve.”

“Many children and families face complex problems with multiple and interconnected causes. If children can attend a high quality integrated early childhood education and care (ECEC) service that offers a range of services, it can improve children’s cognitive development and learning in the short and long term. Research shows that it is children from disadvantaged families who benefit the most from this support.”

“Spending money on early childhood has a significant boost to the budget bottom line as well, with research showing economic returns of early childhood investment of up to $16 for every dollar invested, with the highest return on investment for vulnerable children”

“All children from disadvantaged backgrounds need high quality ECEC, not just those at risk and abuse. Whilst the Productivity Commission report does introduce a means tested Early Care and Learning Subsidy (ECLS) which will most benefit those on low and middle incomes, those families not in work or study on the parenting payment face activity tests which may prevent them from accessing care for their children.”

“We need to ensure there are good safety nets for children from disadvantaged families facing complex problems that prevent them from working or studying can still access early childhood education.”

“VCOSS also welcomes the recommendation for continued government investment in universal access to 15 hours of early childhood education in the year before entering primary school as it has been shown children who access early childhood education are less likely to be developmentally vulnerable at school entry and more likely to have better outcomes at school.”