The Morrison Government will provide an additional $27 million in grants of up to $10,000 to child care services to ensure they can continue providing care to the children of essential workers.
The new child care system was implemented to ensure children of essential workers have continued access to child care, and the planned review of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package will prioritise ensuring those children do have access to care.
The Morrison Government introduced the Relief Package in response to a dramatic fall in attendance that threatened the viability of the sector. If nothing was done, we were told in no uncertain terms by the sector that operators would go out of business, workers would lose their jobs, and families would lose their child care service altogether.
Thousands of workers – including essential workers – would have lost the child care services they rely on.
The new system, introduced on April 6, guarantees revenue for operators. The guaranteed weekly income from the Relief Package was designed to be used in conjunction with the JobKeeper Payment to ensure that services can continue to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic and emerge on the other side.
JobKeeper is a key element of the Government’s Relief Package because approximately 60 per cent of a child care services’ costs relate to staff wages. JobKeeper will cover a large proportion of those costs. The Government is covering most of a services’ staffing costs, on top of paying half of the revenue they would have received under normal circumstances.
The Federal Government is providing substantial support for services that has given them certainty to plan appropriately to get through the pandemic.
Services that accept payment through the package are required to remain open and prioritise the children of essential service workers, vulnerable children and families with an existing relationship with the service.
The Government listened to the sector and acted on their advice, and it relies on services providing care to as many children as they can with the staff and resources they have.
While services may not have the usual incentives to take on children during this time, they need to consider the staff and resources they have available to provide and maximise the care for families that need it during this national emergency.
Every Australian has a role to play to help us get through the COVID-19 pandemic, from child care services, to frontline health workers, to the teachers providing continuity of education to our students and the workers ensuring the supermarket shelves are stocked with essential items. We are grateful to everyone who is making a contribution to get Australia to the other side of this crisis.
Where services have increased demand and feel they cannot afford to meet it based on current levels of support, exceptional circumstances funding is available. This means if a service has more children attending now than it had during the reference period it can apply to receive a higher payment from the Morrison Government.
This funding is also available to services which are not eligible for JobKeeper Payments. Services not eligible for JobKeeper can apply for a supplementary payment under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package and the JobKeeper package.
The Government is working with providers and the sector to ensure that demand for services is met, particularly where it relates to the children of essential workers and vulnerable children.
Part of the package is a planned review after the Government has collected four weeks of data. This review will prioritise ensuring services that have capacity based on our relief package are providing care to the children of essential workers and vulnerable children.
The Government is monitoring data for evidence of services that are artificially keeping attendance below capacity while receiving the Government’s support payment, which is in contravention of the conditions of the package. Information about such practices can be directed to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s tip off line 1800 664 231 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Government has also launched a helpline that will provide families with advice on services available in their local area, including centre-based day care, family day care, outside school hours care and vacation care. The helpline number is 1800 291 041.