OPINION

Childcare is an essential service for nurses and midwives to care for our community

Childcare is an essential service for nurses and midwives to care for our community

The results from the Early Learning Monitor - a large national survey commissioned by Thrive by Five and released last week - echoes the voices of nurses and midwives when it comes to a lack of affordable, high-quality early learning and childcare that suits their needs.

The monitor found half of parents who have made career or family sacrifices say a universal early learning system would have reduced their sacrifices.

There are limited affordable options to support the many nurses and midwives who work non-traditional hours (shift work) and balance care for their young children.

Workforce participation decisions by nurses and midwives are affected if they can't find suitably flexible and affordable early learning and childcare located near their home or workplace.

However, this isn't always as easy as joining the queue with the many other parents seeking care for their children.

Traditional childcare is ill-suited to shift workers who work different hours and different days from week to week, who risk not having childcare when they need it or paying for childcare they don't require.

It also often doesn't cater for the early starts, late finishes, night shifts and weekend work that is just part of the job.

At best, nurses and midwives with young children are left to patch together early learning and care.

Far too many are left with no alternative but to take a step back from the paid workforce.

The system needs reform to better meet the needs of modern parents and ways of working.

Currently, early learning is left to the individual to solve.

Early learning and childcare reform is not just about putting more money into the system.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) calls on the federal government to build a universally accessible system that provides high-quality, affordable and accessible early learning and childcare.

This is essential to support workforce participation choice for all families.

Now is the time for innovative and flexible models of early learning and childcare to be prioritised by government.

Australia's early education and childcare should be firmly placed on the National Cabinet reform agenda to deal with complexities of the system and build a truly national universal system.

Nurses and midwives can't provide their world-class, essential work without it.

Annie Butler is the federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation. Early Learning Monitor poll is available online at https://thrivebyfive.org.au/earlylearningmonitor

This story Childcare is an essential service for nurses and midwives to care for our community first appeared on The Canberra Times.