In Budget 2018 the Coalition Government is following in the footsteps of the previous government by providing for an increase in early childhood education operational funding to meet increased demand.
ChildForum chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander said today’s Budget announcement shows that like National, the Coalition Government intends to continue to boost the number of children in childcare and the hours attended.
An increase in subsidy rates across the board has also been announced.
Dr Alexander said that the Government has done well to acknowledge that this was the number one need in the sector.
An opinion survey run by ChildForum in the last week of April revealed that an increase in subsidies was the top wish or priority for Budget 2018 among people in the early childhood sector.
“Today’s announcement is exciting after so many years of no significant adjustments to funding rates”.
But she added that the funding increase of 1.6 percent was very small and would not be enough to fix problems around staffing, children’s safety and other quality issues.
In its pre-election fiscal plan, Labour outlined that it would increase funds for 100 percent qualified teachers in early childhood education by $33 million for June 2018 – June 2019. Labour’s pre-election fiscal plan also included an additional $74 million and $86 million in funds for 100 percent qualified teachers for the two years following.
It has also not honoured its promise made last time it was in government to provide fees-free 20 Hours of early childhood education, instead allowing services to request top-ups from parents, charge higher fees outside of the 20 hours, and charge even when closed on statutory or other holidays.
Dr Alexander said that the 1.6 percent increase in funding rates announced today is a bandage that will help for now but is likely to be quickly absorbed and make little or no difference to the quality of care and education children experience and costs for parents and families.
What the sector would like to see is the Ministry of Education lift the minimum wage rate at which teachers must at least be paid for a service to claim a higher rate of funding. (The minimum rate at present for an early childhood teacher with a four-year degree is $22.29 hour, even for a highly experienced teacher.)
Future funding changes and decisions need to be based on knowledge of the income, expenditure and fees at early childhood services. Without such data it is harder to manage any risk that funding ends up lining people’s pockets and not directly being of benefit to children and bringing down costs to families. (The last data collection was in 2013).