A report prepared for the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has warned the future of child care is at a crossroads and governments must seize the opportunity to reform the core service delivery model.
MAV President Cr Bill McArthur said the collapse of ABC Learning had highlighted the need to urgently rebalance the mix of care providers and create a more sustainable early childhood education and care market.
Citing a report by the Allen Consulting Group which examined the growing demand for early childhood services, Cr McArthur said that a mismatch had been created between for-profit providers and government-funded alternatives.
“This has created a fundamental mismatch between the use of profit-driven services and the Federal and State Government-supported policy vision of integrating childcare into early education programs,” he said.
“An integrated model is essential given the strong evidence linking high quality early learning with long-term social, mental and physical development benefits.”
Cr McArthur said that the collapse of ABC Learning had shown that it was no longer appropriate to allow market forces to satisfy child care needs and that community and local government providers had a proven track record of integrating kindergarten programs into child care services.
“The Allen report confirms that while the not-for-profit sector provides the majority of Victorian kindergarten programs from council-owned facilities, the private sector dominates long day care services," he said.
“In assessing how to reinvigorate early childhood education and care, the Allen report warns the uncoordinated ad hoc response to selling off ABC Learning centres simply leaves the door open for ‘another ABC’ mess."
The Allen report suggests options including a community partnership model and an Infrastructure Fund would better align government, sector and community interests, as well as maximising the opportunity to drive national policy reform.
“The reality is that community and local government child care providers allow governments to consider value to the community alongside viability. No other forms of education are allowed to operate for profit and it’s time that child care is treated the same way," he said.