The Parenthood welcomes the release of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Childcare Inquiry's final report, advocating for the implementation of bold reforms.
“The ACCC's findings affirm that early childhood education and care is a cornerstone of our society, impacting the development and education of children, as well as the lives and working patterns of parents and families, and the economy,” said Georgie Dent, CEO of The Parenthood.
"The report confirms, however, that there are huge disparities around the country in terms of accessibility and affordability of early childhood education and care," Georgie Dent commented. “Unfortunately the ACCC’s findings make clear that it is children from lower socio-economic households, as well as First Nations children, and children living in remote areas, that miss out the most.”
“This is the 9th report in two years that has recommended the abolition of the Activity Test, a punitive policy that has failed to incentivise parents to work as it was designed, and instead disadvantages children who would benefit the most from having access to quality, inclusive early education and care.”
"The ACCC is explicit in its findings that market forces alone are not meeting the needs of all children and households and that ‘one size fits all’ for early childhood education and care simply isn’t adequate.”
“Australian children and families deserve a truly universal early childhood education and care system that is high quality, accessible, affordable, inclusive regardless of postcode, income or socioeconomic status," Dent said. “That means a new paradigm where the role the government plays is broader than just funding the child care subsidy.”
The Parenthood concurs with the report's recognition of the limitations of market forces in ensuring equitable access and affordable prices. "Market forces alone cannot address the unique challenges of the sector. We join the ACCC in urging the government to pursue bold reforms that prioritise truly universal early childhood education and care for the benefit of children and families," Georgie Dent added.
“We believe that the government should take on a stewardship role when it comes to delivering early childhood education and care - but it's equally important for state and territory governments to be actively involved.”
Another noteworthy recommendation by the ACCC includes addressing the workforce challenges in the sector. "Early childhood educators are at the heart of delivering quality early childhood education. It's crucial to recognise their dedication and ensure they are adequately supported and remunerated. There are currently thousands of vacancies in the sector and we need to act now to stem the loss of early educators and do everything we can to attract Australians back into this profession.”
"It's also encouraging to see the ACCC’s recommendation to remove the childcare activity test. This test has been a barrier for many disadvantaged families, hindering their access to essential childcare services. Removing this test would not only promote greater equity but also facilitate workforce participation for parents who face significant barriers to employment," Georgie Dent stated.
In conclusion, The Parenthood strongly urges the government to seize the present moment and think ambitiously as it redefines its objectives for Early Childhood Education and Care. The ongoing Productivity Commission Inquiry and Early Years Strategy development represent pivotal opportunities to foster transformative thinking.
“The time for action is now. The challenges and opportunities outlined in the ACCC Childcare Inquiry's interim report demand bold and comprehensive reforms that prioritise the well-being of our children and families. It’s a reform that will deliver immediate benefits for families on cost of living, but it is also a reform that will build our future capability. It’s an investment in the leaders of tomorrow,” Georgie Dent stressed.