New data from the latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services (ROGS) shows children in some states are at an advantage over children in other states and territories when it comes to state spending on early childhood education and care (ECEC).
The government data shows state spending on ECEC rose in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, while there were real terms drops in spending in WA (-1.5%), SA (-2.4%), Tasmania (-7.7%), ACT (-4.3%) and NT (-1.0%).
There has also been a cut-back on state investment in quality assessment for childcare services, 1490 assessments were conducted in 2022 compared with 2554 in 2021.
Chief Executive Officer of The Parenthood, Georgie Dent said the findings of the report are sobering for parents and carers of young children in early childhood education and care and reinforce the need for reform.
“Quality assessments have been reduced, confirmed breaches at approved services continue to rise, and the cost of care continues to increase. In real terms, after inflation, the cost increased by $15 a week in major cities in 2022 and is up $69 a week since 2018.
“That 66,000 families were unable to find care in 2022, mostly because it was too expensive, is unacceptable.”
“This new report shows too many Australian parents will not have access to the most up-to-date information on the quality of early learning services in their area,” she said.
“Every time parents or carers send their young children to early learning they should be assured their child will receive high quality early education in a safe environment.
“Access to affordable, quality early learning and care in Australia should not be dependent on a parent or carer’s circumstances or what postcode you live in.
“The early years are a critical time for a child’s brain and social development and access to quality early learning can help give children the best start in life.
“Making high-quality early learning more accessible and affordable also helps enable parents with caregiving responsibilities, mainly mothers, to more actively participate in the workforce and have greater economic freedom.
“These numbers are a wakeup call for governments and political decision makers at all levels. The Early Years Summit being held next week must match a lift in ambition with effective action towards making Australia’s early learning system high-quality, universally accessible,” she said. “The Albanese government’s commitment to make early learning more affordable for families is critically important, but so is ensuring all children have access to quality early learning.”