Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund

An animated explanation of the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund

We know it can be hard to find a place for your child in an early learning centre in NSW, so we are going to boost access to affordable early learning for families across the state.

The new $5 billion Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund will provide targeted funding to support quality early childhood education and care services to innovate and grow, opening up more affordable places for children in their local community.

This will allow more families to access essential early childhood education for their child when and where they need it, and it will support parents and carers with better access to a quality service that's close to home or work- or maybe even at work!

The Early Years Commitment. Brighter Beginnings, Big Futures.

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Boosting access and affordability of ECEC services

The 10-year, $5 billion Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund will 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 quality, affordable services close to home.

The fund also addresses the number one recommendation of the Women’s Economic Opportunities Review, which is to empower women to enter – or re-enter – the workforce by making early childhood education and care more accessible and affordable.

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 Economic Opportunity Fund will help create a range of opportunities for the 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.

Fund governance

The Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund has been legislated as a statutory entity.

The establishment of the fund in legislation provide:

  • enhanced transparency and accountability to the operation of the fund;
  • certainty of long-term funding;
  • enhanced investment confidence and
  • assurance the fund delivers on its strategic intent to boost accessibility and affordability of quality early childhood education and care and improve outcomes for NSW children and families.

The NSW Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund Act 2022 includes the establishment of a special deposits account for the Fund, and the creation of a statutory entity – the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund Board.

Recruitment of the Fund Board

The process to recruit two non-Government appointees to the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund Board has commenced.

Applications for Board positions close in late January, with interviews for shortlisted candidates expected to commence in February 2023. Following interviews, the panel overseeing the recruitment process will develop a written report with recommendations for the Minister, Treasurer and Cabinet to review.

Once Board member appointments are made, the first Board meeting is expected in the first half of 2023.

Support for the sector

To support the Childcare and Economic Opportunity Fund, enhanced market data will be gathered and developed from the sector to help us understand key drivers of access, quality and affordability.

A network of NSW Department of Education staff will also 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 Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is reviewing 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. The NSW Government and IPARTs intention is not to negatively impact quality and safety outcomes through any of the review's recommendation.

Families, the broader community and the early childhood education and care sector have been given an opportunity 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.

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.

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

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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