The Federal Government has introduced legislation to help families with the cost of child care and provide support for child care centres.
The amendments allow the Minister for Education to: increase the number of days that a family can continue to claim the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) in cases where a child is absent from child care for more than the currently allowable 42 days; give a family access to additional absences, without the need for evidence, in relation to COVID-19; and waive the current obligation of child care services to require a family to pay gap fees if the service is forced to close.
However, Early Childhood Australia (ECA) said the package does not go far enough to support the viability of services and the jobs of educators and teachers.
ECA has expressed concern that under the government’s package, only services forced to close by health authorities due to COVID-19 will continue to receive CCS and are not required to charge parents or carers a gap fee. Early learning services that close because of decreased enrolments or unavailability of educators, will not be entitled to CCS payments, which is a gap that needs to be addressed.
“The reason for closure is irrelevant: a service that closes because parents have cancelled their enrolments is no less worthy of support than a service closing due to a diagnosed case of COVID-19,” said ECA CEO Samantha Page.
ECA would also like clarification on how the extension mechanism for allowable absences will work.
Nationally, the current expert medical advice is that the child care sector remains open except where individual services have been directed to close by health authorities.
In the ACT, ACT Minister for Education and Early Childhood Yvette Berry announced on Monday 23 March that all ACT Public Schools will go pupil free until the school holidays, due to begin on Friday 10 April. All other early childhood services, such as long day care, family day care, out of school hours care and vacation care, continue to operate.