Our most vulnerable children have the most to gain from early childhood education but are less likely to attend. Prior to COVID-19 over 750,000 children were living below the poverty line – this figure is likely to increase due to the economic impact of COVID-19 (CELA).
There are multiple barriers to vulnerable children accessing early childhood education and care, which include cost, transport and availability of safe, culturally responsive services.
During COVID-19 we saw major behaviour change when free childcare was introduced. A significant number of vulnerable children attended long day-care for the first time or increased their hours. Once fees resumed, services reported these children no longer attending. CELA is deeply concerned that thousands of vulnerable children are again invisible having now been removed from early childhood education and care.