SUBJECTS: COVID-19 and child care in Victoria
Tom Elliott: Now, there’s some good news if you have a child in child care. Now, if you don’t qualify as an essential worker and you’re forced to mind your children at home during the lockdown, your position in the child care centre has today been secured by the Federal Government. Now, to explain what this means, I was joined earlier on before we went to air by the Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan. And, I began by asking him what exactly he’s doing.
Dan Tehan: Well, what we’ve announced today is relief for parents, so they will get 30 days of allowable absences. So, they can keep their children at home and understand that they can use those allowances for the six weeks, which will mean that providers can waive the gap fee. So, that it won’t cost parents anything to keep their children at home, and it won’t erode the 42 days of absences that they get during any one financial year. So, our message for parents is that please keep your children enrolled. It won’t cost you to keep them enrolled. And, by doing that you’re also helping us support providers, because we will then pay them the Child Care Subsidy that they otherwise would have got, plus a 30 per cent top up payment on the revenue that they were getting before the pandemic. We will give that to them in a payment. And, also, we’ve put in place an employment guarantee to make sure that those child care services and providers continue to engage with their employees and continue to provide work for them.
Elliott: Okay. So, the child care providers’ guarantee to get paid, and parents know that their place in the child care provider of their choice won’t be lost?
Tehan: That’s it. That’s it. That’s it in a nutshell, Tom.
Elliott: Righto. And, 30 days, is that like a month? Or, is that 30 days in child care?
Tehan: That’s 30 days in child care. So, that means, for the six weeks, they will get the absences. And, obviously, none of us hope this will happen. We hope that we’ll be out of Stage 4 restrictions by then. But, if we’re not, obviously, we will consult with the sector and see what additional support is needed to carry the sector through this pandemic, because they’re so vital to how we recover once we get through this coronavirus pandemic second wave.
Elliott: And, is it, you mentioned Stage 4. Does it only relate to Metropolitan Melbourne, which is in Stage 4, or does it relate to all of Victoria?
Tehan: So, the 30 days of absences relate to all of Victoria, and we’ve also made arrangements for outside school hour care providers in Victoria. The rest of the arrangements are specific to Melbourne, because they’re in Stage 4 restrictions.
Elliott: Just on another issue. Daniel Andrews the State Premier said today at his daily press conference – it’s a complicated system and we’re struggling to understand it – but, if you are an essential worker, even if you’re working from home, you will be allowed to take your children to child care. Is that something new from a Federal Government perspective, have looked at?
Tehan: No. Look, we very much made it clear that we would leave those decisions up to the Victorian State Government. What we’ve done is make sure that we put in place the support that parents, the sector and our early childhood educators need, and we’ve left those decisions, obviously the Victorian State Government and their medical team, as they work through what is required.
Elliott: Finally, do we even bother wondering how much this all might cost, or are we just not concerned about that at the moment?
Tehan: No. Look, we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything as responsibly as we possibly can. This will put a, will cost an extra $30 million, on top of the support we’re already providing. But, it’s so important for Victoria, and for Melbourne in particular, that we have our child care sector there for when we come out of this pandemic. And, we think, it’s an initial investment which will be paid off once we’re able to get everyone back to work.
Elliott: Dan Tehan, Federal Minister for Education, thank you for your time.
Tehan: Thanks Tom.
Elliott: Alright, that was Dan Tehan. I spoke to him just before we went to air. So, what he’s saying is that they’re going to fund your places for 30 more days of child care, which should get us through the six-week Stage 4 lockdown, such that when hopefully things return to normal, you won’t lose your spot in the child care queue. Although, I must say, you’d think that most child care providers would be desperate to keep their customers at the moment, and not booting them out.