Coronavirus threat may close childcare centres as parents pull children out


March 27, 2020 10:34:35

Childcare centres across the country could start closing from next week, with one industry body saying the number of children being pulled out of care due to the threat of COVID-19 is startling.

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Key points:

  • Occupancy has dropped at childcare centres between 15 and 50 per cent
  • The union and childcare operators say more government support is needed urgently
  • Federal Education Minister says he is working with the sector to minimise the impact

Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) Queensland manager Brent Stokes said this week there had been anywhere between 15 and 50 per cent drop in occupancy.

“In isolated cases I’ve had members that have dropped by 90 per cent occupancy,” he said.

“By Monday morning next week — if that’s how soon it is — providers are going to have to make some very difficult decisions about if they will be remaining open.”

Many families have withdrawn their children because of job losses and the cost of childcare, with no money coming in.

“The primary one I guess is fear — fear about if their children are safe to attend and just uncertainty,” Mr Stokes said.

Brisbane mother Rosie Sanders said she did not want her toddler son, Jack, in child care.

“The staff are very aware of the situation and they’re being really careful asking kids to wash their hands more, but we don’t think it’s possible really with toddlers to keep them apart enough,” Ms Sanders said.

She said her four-year-old son Edie had also been withdrawn from kindy.

“We’re going to stay at home as much as we possibly can,” Ms Sanders said.

“We’re going for short walks just around the neighbourhood where we don’t come into contact with other people.”

‘Early educators are really nervous’

United Workers Union (UWU) spokeswoman Helen Gibbon said it was also very tough times for childcare workers.

“Early childhood educators are really nervous that they’re not going to be paid and that they don’t have any job security and any viability going forward for their jobs,” Ms Gibbon said.

She said many also feared for their health, with a lack of equipment to adequately protect staff and children.

“We think we need to bring in things like mandatory temperature checks when they arrive at the centre and we need to be doing things like making sure educators have temperature checks as well,” Ms Gibbon said.

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“Everyone agrees we can’t afford as a community to see early education shut down.

“We need them open for essential workers who need to go to work.

“When our economy is ready to get back on track, we need early education there so we can all go to work.”

More government support needed

Both the union and childcare operators said more government support was needed urgently.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan released a statement saying he was working with the sector to minimise the impact.

“We have increased the number of days — up to 62 — that a childcare service will continue to receive the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) when a child is absent from care. The CCS covers up to 85 per cent of the daily costs of a child’s care.

“Grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 are available for childcare providers through the Community Child Care Special Circumstances Fund to help cover business costs, including wages, to ensure services impacted by COVID-19 can continue to operate.

“Families with financial difficulty can apply for funding through the ACCS [temporary financial hardship fund] to cover childcare gap fees.”

The childcare issue is set to be on the agenda of the Education Council on Friday.





















First posted

March 27, 2020 07:10:32

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