On 7 April 2004 the Government announced the continuation of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy (SFCS) for a further four years. The distinctive features of the original strategy, such as supporting communities to help themselves, will be retained. However, the SFCS now has a greater emphasis on improving child outcomes in measurable ways, and is both a continuation and expansion of the Government's commitment to early childhood.
The new SFCS has four components:
- Communities for Children will target up to 35 disadvantaged communities, providing funding of $110 million for local early childhood initiatives.
- Early Childhood – Invest to Grow will provide funding of $70.5 million to expand proven early childhood intervention programs and resources.
- Local Answers will provide funding of $60 million to give communities the opportunity and capacity to develop their own solutions to local problems.
- Choice and Flexibility in Child Care will continue to provide parents with flexible and innovative child care solutions. It provides funding of $125.3 million to continue the in-home care program and provide additional places for families without other formal child care options. There will be incentives for child care providers to set up in areas of high need, and funding will continue to support quality assurance systems for family day care and outside school hours care.
The SFCS was originally funded for four years (2000–2004). A review found that the strategy was helping to build stronger, more resilient families and communities. There is evidence of lasting improvements in the capacity of families and communities in disadvantaged areas to function more effectively and solve their own problems. The review also confirmed the success of the child care initiative and recommended that its funding should be continued.
The Government's focus on early childhood outcomes has intensified since the original SFCS was launched. Consultations during 2003 on the National Agenda for Early Childhood confirmed the need for action to improve outcomes for children. The results of the consultation are reflected in the new SFCS, with its emphasis on community-based early intervention, using and recognising existing community resources and networks, and providing ways of sharing new, best practice approaches.
1 July 2004.
Total Government Funding
$365.8 million over four years including $267.5 million over four years for the continuation of funding for the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy, continuing funding for Child Care Benefit announced with the Strategy and the continuation of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.