Voices within and outside the ECEC sector express disappointment at CCS revert
A number of sources from within and outside the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector have expressed their disappointment at the announcement earlier this week that JobKeeper payments for the sector will cease come 20 July, a week after the child care subsidy (CCS) returns on July 12.
SNAICC – National Voice for our Children CEO Richard Weston spoke about the impact of the decision on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, based on reports that in some ECEC settings, there has been an increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families attending, an increase in those enrolling for the first time, and that some vulnerable children had increased their hours as a result of free care.
Mr Weston also spoke about the impact of the CCS Activity test, saying that the ‘relaxation’ of the Activity Test until 4 October only applies to families who met the requirements before COVID-19, meaning the measures fail to support families who were out of work before the pandemic, and who are likely to find it more difficult to secure employment in its wake.
“The Activity Test unjustly excludes some of the most vulnerable children from early learning based on their parents’ levels of work or study. This exclusion will only be worse as families face increased unemployment over the coming years,” he added.
The Community Child Care Association (CCC) said that while some providers may be relieved to once again be able to charge fees, many will struggle to remain viable, with Executive Director Julie Price saying many families “will now be forced to decide whether they can afford to keep their children enrolled, or even return to work at all”.
“Services have budgeted on having (JobKeeper) available until the end of September. It’s now likely that demand will drop dramatically and services will have to stand down educators and teachers, or reduce their hours,” Ms Price said.
Child Australia CEO Tina Holtom shared her concerns that the time limited transition measures were insufficient to support those families who had reduced hours or lost their job as a result of COVID-19, saying “there are no guarantees that these families will be able to pay fees from October and we think this timeframe should be extended for at least 12 months”.
Ms Holtom also expressed her concern that for families with ongoing hardship issues, irrespective of the pandemic, “the story around accessing childcare is even more complex”.
“This is a difficult system to navigate and some relaxing of rules around the Additional Child Care Subsidy would have encouraged more families to keep their child connected to their early learning setting. While the focus from the Federal Government has been on using the childcare sector as a foundation for economic recovery, we are more concerned with having children engaged in supported, high quality learning environments that are safe, nurturing and free from some of the stressors they could be experiencing at home,” she added.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOS) CEO Cassandra Goldie shared Ms Price’s concerns, saying that targeting ECEC, a female dominated sector with low wages, as the first sector to lose JobKeeper support means the change is likely to adversely affect women, both as workers and parents.
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development Amanda Rishworth was also critical of the announcement, using a speech to Parliament yesterday to note that while “whole segments of the economy are still shut down” the Federal government “seems to think it’s the perfect time to snap back to high childcare fees,” noting that fees have grown 7 per cent in the last year, and 34 per cent since the last election was determined.
For a comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming transition, please see here.