The Thrive by Five campaign has welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement that it will fund free kindergarten and more outside school hours care in 2021.
The Andrews Government will allocate about $170 million in its budget later this month to make kinder free, saving Victorian families around $2,000 per child, according to government figures.
Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said the investment would reap huge rewards for Victorian families and the economy.
“Governments all over Australia are looking at how they can help economies recover from the pandemic, and the numbers show us that investing in early learning boosts the economy, eases financial pressure on families and helps kids maximise their potential,” Mr Weatherill said.
“What we’ve seen throughout this pandemic is that early learning is an essential service that isn’t always treated like one.”
Consumer price index (CPI) numbers throughout 2020 have shown that childcare is now the biggest influence on cost of living for Australian families.
When the Federal Government introduced free childcare during the height of COVID-19 it led to a drop of 1.9 per cent in CPI, the biggest drop since records began, but when free childcare was turned off again CPI jumped by 1.6 per cent, the biggest quarterly increase for 14 years.
“Unfortunately, the childcare system in Australia has become one of the most expensive in the OECD, but despite that huge cost it doesn’t actually achieve what it’s meant to,” Mr Weatherill said.
“The good news is that more governments are starting to realise that and are implementing change.
“Early learning is front and centre in politics right now – both major parties in NSW are on board, Federal Labor has announced a strong policy and now Victoria is adding to its three-year-old kinder rollout.
“Importantly, early learning is receiving support from both sides of politics; this is not a partisan issue, it’s a social and economic issue, and we hope to see that bipartisan support continue all over the country.”
Mr Weatherill said Thrive by Five is advocating for universally accessible childcare for all Australian children and effective policy and investment in early childhood outcomes.
“We’re calling for a much higher quality early learning system, and all the major benefits that will flow from that for our children, their parents and the broader community,” he said.
“We invite all governments to work with us to develop a clearer understanding and community awareness of the importance of early childhood learning.”
Full details of the Victorian Government’s announce can be viewed here.