I’m an early childhood educator. And today’s child care changes have left me, and educators Australia-wide extremely concerned about disadvantaged children.
The new child care subsidy leaves many families worse off on both ends of the spectrum, but disadvantaged families are being hurt the most by far. The number of subsidised hours for disadvantaged families has been drastically cut.
I’ve worked in childcare centres in both affluent and low socio-economic areas.
When I worked with children at risk, my colleagues and I were often the only members of the community who would see them regularly outside of their families.
In the old model these children were under our care two days a week, so we could really get to know every child and notice any changes in their well-being. Where necessary, we could escalate any concerns and work with families to ensure that no child was left behind.
The new child care subsidy has changed the minimum hours families can receive from 24 hours to 12 hours. In some cases families will receive none at all. This reduces access to child care for parents who have good reasons for why they don’t meet the Government’s criteria. Their children are no less deserving of quality early learning and excluding them will reinforce class divisions and pull our education system backward.
For educators, cutting down subsided hours also has the flow on effect of inhibiting our ability to do our job. One day a week is not enough for us to keep track of a child’s development and the ones who will miss out are the ones who need us the most. Most providers will introduce sessional care due to the structure of the new system, this will enable them to maximise their cost but ultimately reduce staff hours.
Early childhood educators have been fighting for our work to be taken seriously for a long time. We are an underpaid and undervalued workforce, and reducing the number of hours families have to access early learning will undermine our fight even further. Six hour sessions/shifts will take away from what we can accomplish and push parents and employers to see us as babysitters when we are so much more. We want every child to benefit from the quality education we are qualified to provide. Every child deserves more time with us so they can meaningfully learn and grow.
One day a week is just not good enough for children in need. It’s not too late for the government to admit they’ve made a mistake and change their policy. Disadvantaged children in our society deserve better.
Karen Moran is a centre director in the early childhood education and care sector and lives and works in Brisbane.