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10 August 2020

SYDNEY, Monday 10 August 2020: Access to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is critical for Australian children throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UNICEF Australia.

Tony Stuart, Chief Executive Officer for UNICEF Australia said it is important that we think about ECEC beyond the contribution it makes to boosting workforce participation, and recognise the essential role it plays in setting up our children for best start in life.

“There are many Australian families under stress at this time and ECEC provides invaluable support for vulnerable children and families. In addition, the first 2,000 days in a child’s life have a significant bearing on health, development, and educational attainment, and the services provided by ECEC supports this.”

“UNICEF Australia commends cooperation between the Victorian and Federal Governments to keep childcare centres open for vulnerable children and children of essential workers, including the additional investment of $33 million by the Federal Government designed to support carers and enable families to maintain their child’s enrolment during periods of lockdown.

“The Government has demonstrated its commitment to our youngest Australians by keeping access to ECEC at the top of the agenda when implementing measures to contain and suppress COVID-19,” he said.

Beyond the pandemic, there are enormous untapped opportunities to increase access to ECEC for Australian children.

“The financial childcare relief extended to families at the beginning of the pandemic was an incredible initiative that we know opened learning opportunities to children who had not been enrolled before.

“Investment in early childhood education and care is worth every cent for children’s development, for the wellbeing of families, for the workforce and the economy,” Mr. Stuart said.

UNICEF Australia welcomes the additional investment announced by the Morrison Government last week to support young children, their families, and the childcare sector as the immediate emergency in Victoria is managed.

To increase access to early learning opportunities for all Australian children, UNICEF Australia recommends:

  • Increase affordability and access to early learning by lifting the taper rate for low income households from 85% to 95% and removing the activity test for families
  • Provide free early learning to families with a healthcare card
  • Simplify access to Additional Child Care Subsidy benefits for children at risk
  • Continue the provision of two days of free preschool/kindergarten for children aged four
  • Transition to provision of two days of free preschool/kindergarten for children aged three