More than one in five children in Australia are vulnerable to falling behind in at least one of five key developmental areas when they begin school. For Indigenous children, the number rises to two in five. And while funding for early childhood has been increasing, the gap between children in most disadvantaged and least disadvantaged areas has continued to widen since 2009.
Our current system of funding, delivering, and organising the various services needed to help children meet developmental milestones is not working for many children who need it most.
In some communities, the problem is too many overlapping efforts, rather than not enough. We need to use existing funding better and enable services to work together to help families.
Focus on local strengths
Too many services focus on fixing discrete problems in a child or family, rather than building holistically on families’ strengths. And despite large differences between communities, we tend to roll out the same services everywhere. Services need to fit the local situation.
Provide flexible services
Services – and the systems funding services – need to work together to help children and families across multiple needs. This requires changes in mindset and practice through the whole system. Good progress has been made in several locations, but coordination and integration needs to become the norm rather than the exception for disadvantaged communities.
Learn and apply what works
Evidence of what works to achieve early childhood outcomes in Australia is patchy – and where it exists, it is often difficult to find or apply. We need a more systematic approach to building evidence and sharing it widely.
Apply new approaches one place at a time
System-wide changes have a mixed record in delivering better outcomes for children – particularly given gaps in the evidence. This report puts forward a range of options that can be tested locally across the country. This approach is both more sensitive to differences between communities and allows us to build stronger evidence for what works in Australia.
Source: Global Access Partners (GAP)