14 JanStronger and targeted measures needed to protect ECEC services against financial and operational risks during Omicron

Posted on 14 Jan 2022

The current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is causing major disruption to the provision of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services due to a combination of reduced attendance and significant staff shortages due to illness and isolation requirements.

The key challenges now faced by the ECEC sector include:

  • high levels of onsite exposure and staff absences
  • lack of access to Rapid Antigen Tests
  • reduced attendances by families and children
  • increased demand for fee waivers from families
  • increasing risk of service viability issues due to staff absences, reduced attendance, and increased demand for fee waiving.

These challenges are resulting in ECEC service and room closures and adversely affecting the financial viability of ECEC services.

The rules and strategies established to support ECEC services in ‘COVID-Normal’ are no longer relevant, given the extent and impact of the current outbreak. Without stronger and targeted measures, the financial and operational risks to ECEC services will be catastrophically increased.

ELAA, CCC and CELA are collaborating to formulate a response to this new wave of COVID-19 challenges at both a Federal and State level. We’re talking to governments and have written to the Acting Federal Minister for Education and Youth, proposing a package of recommendations to combat the key challenges.

Together, we are striving to ensure that unvaccinated children are kept safe; families can continue to participate in their workforce activities; staff in education and care services are safely available to deliver services; and service providers are financially supported.  Recommendations made to Government include:

  • implementation of a COVID absence payment as part of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) System to protect service income and allow for a range of expanded COVID related absence criteria
  • encouraging all State and Territory Governments to:
    1. make COVID-19 boosters a mandatory requirement for ECEC staff
    2. secure sufficient supply of RATs and distribute free of charge to all education and care services
    3. prioritise early educators as essential workers with priority access to vaccine booster appointments
  • increased allowable absences including unlimited COVID-related absences
  • not reducing child staff ratios or staff qualification requirements in response to this COVID outbreak.

We will keep members updated as we receive responses to our recommendations from government. We know this is a very challenging time for ECEC services and please be assured we are communicating the issues and corresponding solutions to government.

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