ECEC peak bodies welcome additional support in Victoria as state moves to next stage
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) peak bodies such as The Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) and the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) have welcomed an announcement committing to extend a Recovery Payment to Victorian early childhood education and care (ECEC) services of 25 per cent of fee revenue during the relief package reference period (17 February to 1 March) until January 31, 2021, and to extend the relaxation of Activity Test measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Victorian early learning services have been severely impacted through the current restrictions in Victoria that were required to address the second wave of COVID-19,” ACA Paul Mondo said.
“We commend the government for recognising the unique circumstances facing Victorian early learning services and for continuing the extensive support offered to our vital sector since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Mr Mondo’s sentiments were supported by ELACCA CEO, Elizabeth Death, who also welcomed the extension of the easing of the activity test until 4 April 2021, saying this will support access to early learning for children whose families have lost income or hours of work due to the pandemic.
“We want young children and their families to have ongoing access to viable, high-quality education and care as Australia emerges from the pandemic and the recession,” Ms Death said, outling ELACCA’s position that activity test easing “will be required until at least April – and probably further into 2021”.
Whilst the announcement is good news for children and families, Mr Mondo outlined the value of the extension for providers and educators also.
“Whilst it is expected that Victorian families will be able to return to their early learning services from 28 September, the current employment and economic conditions may have a negative impact on attendance numbers,” he said.
“This Recovery Payment, coupled with the extension of the Activity Test exemption, ensures financial viability for Victorian service providers during a period of economic uncertainty,” Mr Mondo added, saying it allows all Australian families up to 100 hours of subsidised care each fortnight, regardless of any recent changes to their income or work activities in the COVID-19 climate.
Under the terms of the agreement, service providers must continue to guarantee employment of educators in line with the conditions in place since the return to the Child Care Subsidy in July and they cannot increase fees beyond what they were charging in February, Mr Mondo explained.
Although the measures have been welcomed, there is more which could be done to help children and families, Ms Death said, calling on the Government to give “serious consideration” to increasing the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), and allowing extra preschool hours for children starting school in 2021 in its upcoming Federal Budget.
Ms Death also asked that all state and territory Governments give thought to how any future outbreaks of COVID-19 outside of Victoria may be managed and avoided, asking them to “be prepared to act swiftly to support the early learning and care sector, in ‘hot spots’ or entire regions, should the need arise.”
To learn more about the announcement from Minister Tehan, please see here.