OSHC sector “running out of time”- new coalition implores Government to act before too late
A coalition of Australia’s largest outside school hours care (OSHC) providers made up of Junior Adventures Group, Team Kids, Camp Australia, TheirCare and the YMCA have joined calls from the broader ECEC sector for decisive action from the Federal Government, seeking additional support to avert the collapse of large parts of the OSHC sector as COVID-19 related school shutdowns and Government messaging urging students to stay at home impacts heavily on enrolments.
Sinead Ryan, Executive Director at Junior Adventures Group and spokesperson for the coalition which deliver about 30 per cent of all OSHC services in Australia said “In the last three weeks, attendances at the hundreds of schools around Australia where we provide OSHC services have fallen by as much as 98 per cent, and in many cases this week we opened services to provide before and after school care and attendances were zero.”
Kylie Brannelly Chairperson of the National Outside School Hours Services Alliance (NOSHSA) agreed noting, “We are heartbroken for our education and care professionals, who provide a vital and valuable service, but without a change to the funding model we simply have no revenue coming in. We need a resolution from the Government on assistance to the sector immediately.”
Staff stand downs now inevitable as enrolment driven closures impact
As enrolments fall to unsustainable levels providers are now being faced with the difficult decision to close services and stand down team members.
“While many schools remain open” Ms Ryan said “students are being urged by individual schools and/or state and territoryGovernments to stay home if possible and as a result attendances at OSHC and Vacation Care have collapsed, leaving our staff with no work to do. Our sector faces no choice but to commence the closure of services across the country, leaving large parts of our workforce without work.”
This process has indeed already commenced with the coalition noting that services have initially begun closing in Victoria, a move which is expected to escalate in the next week with the few families that need care left with nothing and the many staff members left with no work.
As with the early childhood sector, coalition members noted the likelihood of serious long term impacts resulting from the temporary shutdowns, saying permanent education and care professionals may not return to the sector once the crisis has ended, which will make it challenging for services to be rapidly restored once lockdowns and other measures are lifted.
In and of itself this would be problematic, but when combined with existing skills shortages, the long term viability of the sector as a whole has now been placed into jeopardy.
Federal Government have listened but lack of action so far imperilling sector
The coalition acknowledged that they have been in contact with the Federal Government, and that those discussions have been productive, however there remains a lack of clarity on existing measures, information about accessing the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) and no new measures, all of which has led to an impasse which they believe now threatens OSHC as a whole.
“The Outside School Hours sector has been completely forgotten by State and Federal Governments, despite the essential role we play in caring for children outside of school hours,” said Ms Ryan.
Looking forward, the coalition is calling for the Federal Government to revisit the Child Care Subsidy rules that apply to OSHC and craft a support package that enables CCS to flow to services during this unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, based on program attendances as of the last week in February.
This point in time represents a pre-COVID-19 ‘line in the sand’ and will act as a baseline from which support can then be calculated.
To learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on the Outside School Hours Care sector, and the impact of potential closures, please see here.