ECA seeks urgent Ministerial support to help ECEC services balance COVID-19 financial hit

by Freya Lucas

March 26

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has written to Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan seeking “a further and urgent update on the severe financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the early education and care (ECEC) sector”.

 

The measures introduced by the Federal Government thus far, which include 62 days of allowable absences where Child Care Subsidies are available if a child is absent from care for any reason, and a stipulation that should absences extend beyond 62 days no medical evidence is required if a child is absent due to COVID-19 reasons, “have not gone far enough” to support services, the ECA said in a letter to its member base. 

 

We are very aware that over the past week services have experienced an exponential increase in the number of parents keeping children at home and cancelling enrolments — some estimates are as high as 30-40 percent. This has increased now that schools in three jurisdictions (NSW, VIC and ACT) are asking parents to keep school-aged children at home,” an ECA spokesperson noted. 

 

As a result, the ECEC sector is now in “a state of crisis”, ECA added, with “service closures imminent and the job security of educators, teachers and service leaders being in jeopardy”.

 

ECA have lobbied the Government to take action on the following points as a matter of priority:

 

  • Child Care Subsidy (CCS), at the rate that was claimed in the week beginning 2 March, to be paid to services for the next six months, as well as Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) funding to top that up in order for the sector to keep services open and retain 80 per cent of the staff, allowing families working in essential services to continue to have access to ECEC and allow educators/teachers to keep working. 

 

  • The Activity Test to be set aside and families exempt from paying their component of fees when children are not attending (regardless of the reason).

 

  • Permit services to work with families remotely – via digital technology and telephone – with services currently registered for centre-based care and outside school hours care also able to offer in home care (proposed by National Outside School Hours Services Alliance (NOSHSA).

 

  • Bring forward the start date for extended allowable absence on the last day of attendance, and include ‘pandemic’ as a criterion for eligibility.

 

In addition, ECA supports the call from the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) to allow services to approve ACCS — Temporary Financial Hardship at service level. 

 

“We have provided case studies and data to support these measures and we are very aware of the urgency. Our media engagement has been extensive and we will continue this until we feel that there are adequate support measures for both families and services,” a spokesperson for ECA said. 

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