ECEC Peak Bodies not aligned in responses to latest VIC Rescue package
Early childhood education and care’s (ECEC) largest key peak bodies have reached differing conclusions on the latest Victorian ECEC relief package with the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) and Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) welcoming the announcement and Early Childhood Australia (ECA) expressing concerns about the package.
The package announced by Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan will see Metropolitan Victorian families using care receive an additional 30 days of allowable absences to use in lieu of attending their centre and all services receive an additional 5 per cent of reference period revenue Transition Payment on top of the existing 25 per cent already being paid.
Importantly, the measures adopted will ensure that the Child Care Subsidy system remains intact throughout the lockdown, with the onus on services to ensure that families claim their absences through the correct channels in order for CCS receipts to be secured.
Paul Mondo, CEO of the ACA said in their press release “Today’s funding announcement and policy settings mean that Victorian early learning service providers can stay afloat over the next six weeks and allow those families working in the permitted industries to continue working and providing those essential services. We are extremely grateful for this rapid response to what could have been another impending crisis for our sector.”
This sentiment was echoed by Elizabeth Death, CEO of ELACCA who welcomed the announcement and also added that “Families can be reassured that children of permitted workers, those experiencing vulnerability or others as defined by the Victorian Government will be able to maintain continuity of education and care with their familiar and valued teachers. Quality providers will offer all other children unable to attend with ‘learning from home’ support.”
Sam Page CEO of ECA however was less positive about the measures noting in their press release that “Early Childhood Australia (ECA) is concerned that the support package announced by Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan this morning fails to provide certainty for families and educators.”
Specifically, Ms Page said “The Federal Government’s decision to maintain the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) system and provide families with an additional 30 days of allowable absences in financial year 2020/21, is based on the assumption that families are going to maintain their enrolment in early education and care services. The Minister is requesting, rather than compelling, all services to waive the out-of-pocket component of the fee if children are kept at home.”
With respect to the educator employment guarantee extended as part of this package, a key component designed to safeguard the ECEC workforce from job losses, Mr Mondo emphasised that “The funding is available to all Melbourne-based services, therefore supporting all early childhood educators, unlike the JobKeeper Payment, which excluded one third of the early learning service providers and therefore one third of sector employees.”
Ms Death made a similar reference highlighting that unlike the JobKeeper payment package, which excluded casual workers employed for less than 12 months amongst others, this set of measures will be uniformly applied across the sector and in so doing create better security of employment for team members.
Ms Page was less confident that the arrangements would lead to certainty for early childhood educators saying “The employment guarantee the Minister referred to is simply a headcount clause in a funding contract that discourages providers from laying off educators and teachers. It does not guarantee any minimum wage be paid to those educators and teachers. A minimum income payment should be added to the employment guarantee.”
Adding that “Other employees across Australia are receiving the JobKeeper payment, ensuring they have a minimum income to survive. The decision to remove early childhood educators from this scheme was risky and potentially leaves the financial wellbeing of thousands of educators in Victoria in jeopardy.”
In closing their comments the ACA and ELACCA expressed similar sentiments with the former indicating a willingness to work with Government in the best interests of families and their children and the latter confirming that the package will enable its members to retain their high quality workforce.
ECA however, took a different tack noting that the pandemic has highlighted the need for substantial reform in the way that ECEC is funded and the workforce managed.
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