Government backs down over early childhood education concern

  • 19/06/2023
Other conditions will remain.
Other conditions will remain. Photo credit: Getty Images.

The Government has backed down over a condition in its early childhood education policy that raised concerns among centres worried it may lead to increased fees and closures.

In Budget 2023, the Government announced it would spend $1.2 billion over four years to extend 20 hours of free early childhood education to two-year-olds from March next year. The subsidy is currently only available to children aged between three and five. Funding rates were also increased by 4.6 percent.

While many centres welcomed the extension to more children, there were concerns about some conditions that came with it. Three-quarters of the sector called for an urgent meeting with the minister over what they deemed was an unworkable policy.

"On hearing their subsequent concerns, I met with ECE representatives," associate Minister of Education Jo Luxton said on Monday.

"They specifically flagged the proposed condition requiring services to offer enrolments for 20 hours only, if requested.

"On the basis of their constructive feedback and with further advice from officials, Minister Tinetti and I have agreed to remove the condition. This change will still enable parents to access more affordable childcare while allowing services to retain flexibility in their enrolment practices to support their viability."

Other conditions - including that providers be transparent about their fee structure and that the 20 hours are actually free for parents - will remain. 

Luxton said the Government couldn't engage directly with the sector prior to the announcement due to the confidential nature of the Budget process.

"Extending 20 Hours ECE will support parents and caregivers by easing pressures on household budgets, supporting access to ECE, and allowing parents to return to work sooner if they wish," Luxton said.

"The Government also wants to increase transparency for parents, so parents have clarity about what they're being charged for. That's why we included specific funding conditions aimed at improving this understanding."