Childcare will be free for parents working to keep society functioning through the coronavirus shutdown – as well as those who’ve taken their child out of care but want to keep the place – under new subsidies announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Around one million families in 13,000 childcare and early learning centres are expected to benefit as the sector reels from the impact of job losses and stand-downs from businesses forced to close in a bid to halt the pandemic.
The government says the plan means the sector should receive $1.6 billion over the next three months, $300 million more than existing projected revenue over that period. The new system kicks in on Sunday night.
Under the plan, the Government will pay 50% of the sector’s fee revenue from April 6, based on the number of children in care during the fortnight leading into 2 March – when parents started withdrawing their children in large numbers – but only if the services remain open and don’t charge for care.
An extension to be considered after three months. The payments replace the existing Child Care (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy payments.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the package would ensure services stayed open for families needing that support.
“The states and territories are looking at how to reduce the regulatory burden on the child care services which will further help them to remain viable. The Education Council of the country’s education ministers as well as National Cabinet will address regulation this week,” he said.
“Until the payments arrive, we are allowing services to waive gap fees for families who keep their children home, and families will be able to use the 20 extra absence days the government has funded for coronavirus related reasons without giving up their place in a child care centre.”
The Minister said that if parents had terminated enrolments since February 17, they should contact the centre to re-enrol.
“Re-starting your enrolment will not require you to send your child to child care and it certainly won’t require you to pay a gap fee,” he said.
“Re-starting your enrolment will, however, hold your place for that point in time when things start to normalise, and you are ready to take your child back to their centre.”
Prime Minister Morrison said that the childcare sector is also expected to receive around $1 billion through the government’s previously announced $1500-per-fortnight JobKeeper payment, which should help around 200,000 people in the early education workforce can stay connected to services.
The government will also provide an extra $453.2 million for preschools in 2021 to support almost 350,000 children to attend preschool.
“Child care and early childhood education is critical, particularly for those Australians who rely on it so they can go to work every day,” the PM said.
“Critical areas are not just the obvious ones — it is not just the doctors or the nurses who are at the hospitals, it is the cleaners at the hospitals as well. It is the people driving trucks to get food out to supermarkets and ensure the supplies continue.”
Morrison said the National Cabinet is also considering short-term intervention for commercial tenancy arrangements.
Child care services seeking health and situation information about COVID-19 should contact the 24/7 National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. Information is also available online here.