The Parenthood points to media reports this week of ASX-listed childcare provider G8 increasing fees by 4.5 per cent as a dire warning of the unsustainable pressure in the early learning system and the strain it is placing on children, parents and educators.
Georgie Dent, Executive Director of The Parenthood, which represents 75,000 parents and carers nationally, said the early learning sector is at a crisis point with record staff shortages and vacancies, reduced capacity due to room and service closures related to Omicron and rapidly increasing fees.
“Australian parents already pay some of the most expensive out of pocket costs for childcare in the world so another 4.5% jump in fees when childcare costs have risen by 6.5% over the past year is utterly unaffordable,” Ms Dent, said. “Early learning services right around the country are under enormous pressure.
“Educators and directors speak about the intense stress they’re under from this difficult start to the early learning year with ongoing workforce shortages and staff furloughed. The viability of services has been threatened over the past two years because of the various Covid waves and it’s not getting better,” Dent said.
“Parents are anxious about the ongoing disruption to early childhood education and care caused by Omicron and staffing shortages, and many are struggling with the rising costs,” she said.
“The Parenthood is calling for the Federal Government to provide the ECEC sector with an urgent financial survival package to support children and families, prevent the loss of early learning services, places and educator jobs.
“We want an 85 per cent subsidy guarantee to ensure educators can be paid, including those unable to work because of exposure and clear guidelines around isolation requirements.
“Government policies aimed at making early learning and childcare more affordable have also fallen short. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show out of pocket early learning and care costs have risen 6.5% over the past year alone.
“Throw in fee increases of another 4.5% and it locks families in a vice of ever- increasing costs that strain household budgets and act as a brake on workforce participation by parents.
“Early learning and care will be a key issue for parents at the upcoming Federal election, but the system is straining and we cannot wait for reform.
“Australia must urgently invest in universal access to high quality, affordable and accessible early learning and care,” Ms Dent said.