New national polling released today by Thrive by Five initiative shows almost all regional Australian families (91 per cent) report a sharp increase in early learning and care costs over the past three years.
Further, more than 79% of families living in remote areas indicated more affordable and easily accessible early learning and care would provide them with significant economic relief. Nearly 80 per cent of regional parents indicating access to cheaper, high-quality early learning and care would help their families.
Georgie Dent, Chief Executive Officer of The Parenthood said, “This new report found about 90 per cent of parents in regional and rural areas believe early learning and care costs have increased over the past three years, a clear indication the system is not working fairly. For far too long families living in rural and remote Australia have experienced escalating early learning and care costs and a lack of access to high-quality care.
“Years of inaction on these critical issues has also meant that children from remote communities are twice as likely to start their years at school developmentally vulnerable, compared to their counterparts in urban parts of the country.”
A report published by Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute found 42% of families living in inner regional areas and about 62% of families living in outer neighbourhoods have no access to an early learning centre within a 20-minute drive.
“It is inexcusable that in one of the richest countries in the world, we have families living in areas with such scarce access to early learning and care that they’re deemed to be childcare deserts.
“The early years of a child’s life are some of the most important in their developmental journey and early education is vital for giving children the best start in life. Every child in every postcode should have the same opportunity for early learning.
“In addition, no plan for growing jobs and economic development in regional or rural areas will work unless it comes with a significant increase in funding for early learning and childcare, that supports the participation of parents, and women in particular, in the workforce,” she said.
The Parenthood is part of a coalition of educators, childcare advocates and health service providers in regional areas calling on the Federal Government to action the Thrive by Five Rural and Remote Five Point Plan:
- A dedicated funding model for a sustainable and viable early childhood
- education and care system in rural and remote communities regardless of
- location, setting, income or hours.
- Early childhood education and care to become part of the National Cabinet
- reform agenda to deal with the complexities of the system and build a true
- national universal system.
- new national agreement to deliver universal three-year-old preschool across
- the country to match the partnership agreement in place for four-year-old
- The Child Care Subsidy is available to all children regardless of their parents' setting and income or work status. Lift the Child Care Subsidy to 95
- per cent for all children and set agreed fee caps.
- Start workforce planning for universal access and fund appropriate pay and
- flexible conditions for educators to end the problem of skill shortages, high
- vacancy rates and high staff turnover rates across the sector.