The Parenthood has welcomed Thrive by Five’s Early Years Covid-19 Plan released today and calls on the Federal Government for a national plan prioritising the health and wellbeing of children as early learning and care opens up, particularly in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
The Parenthood Executive Director Georgie Dent said, “At this critical juncture in the pandemic, the Federal Government must commit to doing everything it can to address the impact of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of children under five.
“Without targeted support there is a risk for young children that due to Covid they may never catch up in their early learning and social development.
“With the easing of restrictions in Victoria, NSW and ACT, and the fact that young children aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, parents need the reassurance that the health and wellbeing of all children is a top priority, particularly in early learning settings.
“After almost two years of disruption and uncertainty early educators, parents and children deserve a commitment from the Federal government that the sustainability of the sector and the safety of children and the early education workforce will be supported as a priority.
“A guarantee that the highest standards apply across all early learning services, including clear public health rules about how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in early childhood education and care services, preschool, and playgroups is necessary.
“What we don’t need is early learning services closing without adequate support, or high levels of absenteeism which may negatively impact on the development and mental health of young children.
“For children under five, the pandemic experience takes up a large proportion, if not all, of their early lives.
“It’s critical that government supports addressing the impacts of the pandemic, outbreaks and lockdowns on the well being of young children and help get their early learning and development back on track.
“As a start, parents would support the provision of catch up opportunities for children who didn’t receive their full 600-hour entitlement of preschool in 2021 by allowing them to make up the gap hours in the remainder of 2021, or additional support in the first years of primary school.
“Young children in regional and remote areas would benefit from greater access to early learning programs, including mobile early childhood education and care in areas not currently serviced by permanent centres.
“And financial support for services when a lockdown or outbreak in a local area occurs is absolutely needed until attendances across the sector stabilise.
“In the long-term, we need investment in universally accessible, high-quality and affordable early childhood education and care for every Australian child.
“The disruption and stresses of the pandemic are also an opportunity. We need leaders who will be intentional and proactive about prioritising the safety, wellbeing and development of children.”