Response to Relief Package review needs to address ‘the big question’ ELAA says
With much of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector divided about the best next steps for the Federal Government to take post 28 June, in relation to the retention, or otherwise, of the Relief Package, the Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) has voiced its “significant reservations” about a return to the child care subsidy (CCS) system via CEO David Worland.
“The (CCS) system has proved inflexible and unable to adequately respond to crises in 2020 linked to bushfires, floods and now a pandemic. And with the existing activity test it has the potential to lock out children from vulnerable families and the amount of families considered ‘vulnerable’ will continue to grow since the economic shutdown, despite the introduction of JobKeeper” Mr Worland said.
Although the Federal Government’s response to the four-week review of its Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package, he added, “brings some welcome extra relief for some services” it leaves “the big question unanswered – will the relief package continue beyond 28 June?”
While the announcement of an additional $12 million for services with more than 30 per cent of full-time equivalent staff ineligible for JobKeeper and an extra $800,000 for in-home care providers are both ‘welcome and reasonable responses’ to the review, Mr Worland said, the bulk of providers are counting down on the 28 June expiry date for the package “and we know there’s plenty of them that are really anxious about what comes next.”
“There’s so many things that remain uncertain – the potential for high unemployment to become entrenched or even escalate, a possible second or third wave of the virus, and residual anxiety among parents about even contemplating returning their children to childcare. We believe it’s too early to make a call about rolling back the ECEC Relief Package – the risk of upsetting the apple cart and triggering widespread service closures is too great right now” he added.
Based on the concluding lines of the Summary Report on the four week review of the Relief Package, which read “Consideration could be given by the Government to the interaction between likely demand trajectories, any refinements to the Relief Packages refinements, and plans to return to CCS settings” Mr Worland called on the Government to extend the Relief Package at least until the end of September 2020 and to increase funding for services with attendances above 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“We are also calling on the Government to begin planning for a transition to a modified CCS system that not only ensures the early childhood education sector remains viable but also provides equitable access to quality early learning for all children regardless of their parents’ circumstances – and that means removing the activity test” he said in closing.
To read the statement in full, please visit the ELAA website, found here.