04 AprEarly Childhood sector welcomes Commonwealth relief but now looks to States to bridge kinder gap
ELAA welcomes the announcement of the Commonwealth Government’s Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package that enables families to stay enrolled with their chosen childcare provider during the coronavirus (COVID 19) emergency.
The Government’s offer to pay 50% of child care fees will support early childhood education and care providers to an extent, but only if all services can combine this relief with access to the JobKeeper payment.
ELAA’s CEO, Mr David Worland, has urged the Commonwealth Government to “provide flexibility for those service providers that may not meet the JobKeeper funding requirements, as a failure to do so will inevitably lead to unnecessary service closures, job losses, disrupted care and a protracted economic recovery”.
However, the sessional kindergarten sector (which has separate funding arrangements to childcare) is still highly exposed to a parent fee revenue gap created by parents either being unable to afford out-of-pocket fees (due to job losses) or withdrawing their children due to health concerns.
“While we welcome the continued commitment to fund kindergarten in the year before school by the Commonwealth and States via the National Partnership on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education, we urgently need the governments of states where parent gap fees apply to temporarily bridge the gap left by parents not currently paying out-of-pocket costs,” said Mr Worland. “It’s imperative that State governments act on this now as sessional kindergarten services in most states are due to open again after Easter and likely to face significantly lower levels of attendance.”
While governments have, overall, responded comprehensively and quickly given the rapidly evolving nature of the pandemic, one section of the early childhood education and care sector that seems to have fallen off the radar when it comes to funding relief are providers of unfunded three-year-old programs.
These providers (with the exception of selected services such as those in regional Victoria who are
covered by the first phase of that State’s ‘Three-year-old Expansion Program’) have been largely ignored in recent Commonwealth and State relief packages.
“We experienced a huge drop in attendance just prior to the school holidays a couple of weeks ago and it’s really uncertain how many parents are going to come back in Term 2 because of their concerns about the virus,” says Meg Donnelly, President of Kinderlea Three-Year-Old Preschool in Victoria’s Wantirna South. “So far, services like ours seem to be left out of the early childhood education and care relief packages offered by governments and, because of the social distancing restrictions, we can’t run fundraising events like our annual Open Day which provided much needed funds for our service.”
ELAA urges both the Commonwealth and State governments to factor in unfunded Three-Year-Old programs to future relief packages as a matter of urgency.
“We would also like to see both Commonwealth and State Governments recognise the added risk posed to early childhood workers required to report for work during a time when the spread of coronavirus (COVID 19) has still not peaked in Australia,” said Mr Worland. “Provision for things like universal access for early childhood workers to Employee Assistance Programs or priority coronavirus (COVID 19) testing should be added to relief packages.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with ELAA CEO, David Worland, contact James Gardener 0413 483 182.
ELAA is the national peak body for not-for-profit providers of early childhood education and care. Our vision is Excellence in Early Learning for Every Child. www.elaa.org.au