Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund

Boosting access and affordability of ECEC services

The Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund is a landmark $5 billion investment over 10 years to boost access to and affordability of early childhood education and care services.

The aim is to give parents who want to return to work better access to a quality service close to home.

The Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund addresses the number one recommendation of the NSW Government’s Women’s Economic Opportunities Review, which is to make early childhood education and care more accessible and affordable, to empower women to enter – or re-enter – the workforce.

Targeting priority needs

The Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund will target known barriers to families accessing quality early childhood education and care by providing major incentives to enable providers to extend their services to more families, more affordably.  

It will help existing services – including not-for-profit and private providers – to grow in size and quality and it will improve the viability of existing services, particularly in regional and rural locations. The Fund will also support services to drive down their fees for families and to build, retain and better reward their workforce.

Workforce

A priority for the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund will be the early childhood education and care workforce. We are keen to work with the sector on developing innovative new approaches to help attract and retain the next generation of early childhood teachers and educators.

This may include offering more attractive employee packages. 

Backing innovation and growth

The Childcare and Ecoomic Opportunity Fund will help create a range of opportunities for our early childhood education and care sector to innovate and grow.

In addition to workforce initiatives, priority investments for the Fund could include:

  • building larger facilities
  • forming new partnerships to deliver more affordable early childhood education and care places
  • helping providers start new services in areas where there is a shortage of places
  • helping services to operate in communities that need extra help to stay viable
  • trialling new service models to meet the needs of modern families.

Support for the sector

To support the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund and all the Early Years Commitment activities, the NSW Government will commit $24.7 million over 4 years to gather and develop enhanced market data from the sector to help us understand key drivers of access, quality and affordability.

We will develop a network of NSW Department of Education staff to give hands-on help and improve the provision of information and support to services. These staff will help inform the Fund’s priorities and support services to apply for the Fund. 

IPART review of affordability, accessibility and consumer choice

The NSW Government has commissioned the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to review the early learning sector to help guide policy development and future funding decisions and ensure the $15.9 billion Early Years Commitment is used to improve outcomes for children and families, not only the sector’s commercial performance.

IPART is an independent NSW Government agency which conducts reviews through a transparent and impartial process.

IPART will recommend ways to improve affordability, accessibility and consumer choice in early childhood education and care in NSW. It will not be considering price regulation.

Families, the broader community and the early childhood education and care sector are encouraged to provide feedback on the draft terms of reference for the review as we work together to improve outcomes for every child and improve women’s economic participation in NSW.

Once the terms of reference have been finalised, IPART will consult families and the sector during the review in 2023. IPART will deliver an interim report to Government by August 2023 and a final report by December 2023.

The IPART Review is being conducted around the same time as an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) price inquiry into childcare.

The IPART Review is different from the ACCC inquiry. The IPART Review will examine different questions and issues to the ACCC inquiry, with a focus on the distinct NSW sector, including how supply and demand affect affordability, accessibility and consumer choice.

The IPART Review will also look at all parts of the early learning sector in NSW, including community, mobile and department preschools, unlike the ACCC inquiry.

The NSW Department of Education is in regular communication with the Commonwealth to promote alignment between the IPART Review and the ACCC price inquiry. We acknowledge that there is some burden on the sector to participate in both the IPART Review and the ACCC price inquiry, but this is a great opportunity for the sector to contribute to collecting essential information to help guide policy development and future funding decisions. IPART and the ACCC are cooperating and want to make this as easy as possible for the sector to share information with both agencies.

Visit the Early childhood education and care affordability, accessibility and consumer choice webpage on IPART's website to find out more about the review and have your say on the terms of reference.

The deadline for responses is Tuesday 10 January 2023.

The Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund will open for applications from 2023-24

The NSW Government has now passed legislation to establish the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund as a statutory entity to guarantee investment in the sector for the long term.

Following the passage of the legislation, the NSW Government will move to appoint a Fund Board. Information on nomination processes and appointments will be available shortly.

Consultation on priority areas for the Fund commenced in late 2022 and detailed guidelines for accessing the Fund will be released in 2023, before the Fund opens for applications.

Services and sector organisations (including long day care services, community and mobile preschools), will be able to apply for funding from financial year 2023-24.

More information

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To provide feedback or ask us a question about the Early Years Commitment please contact:

Early Years Commitment team
EarlyYearsCommitment@det.nsw.edu.au

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