The Early Learning Association of Australia has welcomed the confirmation of the Victorian Government’s election commitment to funding the early learning sector – but says more is needed.
In the state budget delivered on Tuesday, the Labor Government allocated $59 million for investment into early childhood services.
Of this funding, $50 million will be invested over four years into capital grants for services in the rapidly growing areas of outer-metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, and $9 million will be allocated over four years to maintain 150 early childhood intervention services and flexible support packages for preschool children with disabilities or developmental delays.
Shane Lucas, chief executive of the Early Learning Association of Australia, said the funding was welcome but more would be required for Victoria to keep early learning infrastructure up to date. Lucas also said the government should invest in facilities to deal with larger class sizes and that demand for early childhood services in outer Melbourne must be met.
“To further upgrade infrastructure, we would be looking at [about] $100 million in the next couple of years,” Lucas said. “There’s also a lot of unmet demand, especially in growth areas in the outer metropolitan parts of Melbourne, and this original $50 million will certainly go towards building new integrated children’s services in some of those growth areas but, again, we think possibly demand is going to be higher than that capacity.”
Lucas added, however, that funding for the early childhood sector is not solely the state government’s responsibility, as local government and other services should also chip in. He has called on the federal government to contribute to the early childhood sector in its upcoming budget and whilst he welcomed an initial funding pledge from the social services minister, Scott Morrison, he called on the federal government not to leave low-income families worse off.
“We’ve got some concerns about what the families package is going to include, especially around the way it treats childcare rebates and childcare management, and also whether or not vulnerable families, or low-income families, may find themselves worse off,” Lucas said. “We’re still waiting to see the details on that.”
The federal government announced today it would direct $850 million towards childcare for disadvantaged families, to children considered at risk and to those living in regional or remote parts of Australia. Of that amount, $327 million would be new funds; the rest would be redirected from other services. Labor has pledged to block these measures in the Senate, citing they take away resources from other crucial programs.
“If the government is serious about families, it will scrap its Family Tax Benefit cuts, which would leave some families as much as $6000 worse off,” Labor families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said.
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