This report looks at how national and provincial budget processes impact on the funding of ECD services, and at the mechanics of preparing credible plans and budgets that will enable government to effectively finance and deliver them.
What financing models would be appropriate to enable the scaling up of early childhood development (ECD) services to achieve population coverage on a sustainable basis? This paper looks at how national and provincial budget processes impact on the funding of ECD services, and at the mechanics of prepar- ing credible plans and budgets that will enable government to effectively finance and deliver them.
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Currently, donor funding plays an important role in ECD provision, but this contribution would be insuf- ficient to finance the large-scale provision of ECD services. parents and caregivers also make an enormous contribution to the financing of ECD services, but to rely on the private financing of ECD services is to perpetuate existing social inequalities and their intergenerational impacts. public provision of ECD ser- vices can on the other hand help minimise these.
Ilifa Labantwana’s overall objectives promote an extended definition of ECD (beyond centres, and across a development continuum from conception) promoting access to an Essential package of ECD services to all the country’s children, especially the most vulnerable. Key events in the annual division of revenue process and the national and provincial budget processes must therefore be clearly understood, so that entry points for influencing budget allocations can be identified.
During the budget process, ECD competes for resources with other national and provincial priorities. because the national government currently regards ECD as a priority, it is possible that additional resources could be made available to enable provinces to fund it. alternatively, a case could be made for funds to be added to the Department of social Development’s budget to fund an ‘ECD conditional grant’ to provinces, but there are other challenges related to their management.
another approach might involve a consolidated ECD conditional grant, covering a number of provincial functions, which provinces could then allocate to specified ECD services according to their own prefer- ences. such a consolidated conditional grant would have the advantage of setting a minimum budget for ECD in each province.
To ensure sustained value for money from resources allocated to ECD, an approach based on outputs and service standards should be adopted. however the legislative framework would have to be amended in order to achieve this – well-defined, achievable national norms and standards for ECD services would need to be in place.
At the present juncture, the mechanisms required for the delivery of ECD programmes are still relatively poorly defined. until government has formulated a position on the core content of ECD services, it will not be in a position to formulate national norms and standards.
The lack of clarity that currently prevails around the definition of ECD services has made it difficult for provincial departments of social Development to prepare credible and detailed budgets for ECD. the absence of national norms and standards has also limited their ability to motivate for ECD budgets within their respective provincial budget processes.
An important aspect of Ilifa Labantwana’s current work is thus to define the content of the service delivery programmes and management structures that the government needs to put in place in order to deliver on the Essential package of ECD services. once this work has been done, it will lay a valuable foundation for defining national norms and standards, and, in so doing, provide a basis for preparing credible budgets for ECD.
While the funding of ECD services is non-mandatory, ECD is a key government priority, therefore the national government is inclined to favourably regard well-motivated budget bids for additional funds for ECD. these require convincing implementation plans and costed budgets. budget bids supported by credible implementation plans are more likely to be funded.
Budgeting in government is a complicated process involving a range of ingredients, thus there is scope for more deliberate strategising about how to influence key processes and people directly related to budget processes. Knowledge about the costs of ECD programmes can help ensure that when national policies promoting ECD are developed, they are properly funded through the equitable share so as to avoid the situation where ECD obligations placed on provinces and municipalities are underfunded.
To cost the Essential package of ECD services there need to be clear ‘models’ of service delivery that describe in very concrete terms what government needs to do. Ilifa Labantwana’s ongoing development of the required service delivery models is thus essential for the costing of ECD services.