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18 June, 2020

Free childcare to wrap up

The Federal Government has announced that it will end its free childcare scheme next month, while at the same time ending the JobKeeper for childcare workers.

By Phil Brandel

The Federal Government has announced that it will end its free childcare scheme next month, while at the same time ending the JobKeeper for childcare workers.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said that JobKeeper payments for childcare workers will end on July 20, and Australia’s free childcare program will be wound up on July 12.

Under the new rules, Childcare workers will become the first sector to be told that their wage subsidies will end earlier than the six-month life of the Job Keeper program.

Mr Tehan announced that there will be a $708 million in funding to replace JobKeeper from July 13 until September 27 and that it will be a "tiny bit" less than JobKeeper.

As well as ending Job Keeper the government has announced that parents will go back to paying for their children's care, with the reintroduction of the Child Care Subsidy, but the Government will loosen the criteria for subsidised care for families still struggling due to the COVID-19 crisis.

"The Government will loosen the activity test until October 4 to support eligible families whose employment has been impacted as a result of COVID-19," Mr Tehan said.

"These families will receive up to 100 hours per fortnight of subsidised care during this period."

Connie Duncan who is the Director of the First Steps Early Learning in Atherton says she can’t wait for the free childcare period to end “At the moment the government is only giving us a 50 per cent subsidy and Job Keeper.”

“Our enrolments are increasing, but if any of my staff are sick or need time off I cant call in a casual because we’re only getting 50 per cent of our costs from the government.” She said

“That means I need to employ a casual at full rate when my income is only 50 per cent.

“Our 50 per cent subsidy is also based on our enrolments in February and our numbers have gone up since then.

“So all the people that have enrolled over the past month are technically getting free childcare.”

Connie says that If the normal government subsidies come back in there would be no need for Job Keeper. “We could start operating normally and start hiring casuals again.”

General Manager of the Kids Campus in Mareeba Jeanette Sturiale agreed that the rolling back of free childcare was a good thing for the industry.

“Free childcare wasn’t a bad idea it was just the way it was delivered by the government. They delivered free childcare, which was great when people were struggling. “she said

“But under that program, we would only get half from the government of what we normally would get.

“So it’s been a bit difficult, as more parents go back to work, more kids come back to our childcare centres.

“We are trying to accommodate more and more children, but we have been struggling with increased numbers but with less income.”

Jeanette also said there is a lot of confusion with the latest packages announced by the government

“The new package says we have to keep our employment at the same levels to protect staff. But they have also capped our fees at the level they were at in late February,” she said

“Families are wanting to come back but we don’t have the facilities or resources to be able to provide spots,

“No other industry has had their job keeper scrapped, if you go to a supermarket and buy your groceries, you pay full price. The Government isn’t dictating to any other industry what can be charged while telling them how many staff must be employed.

“It's all very confusing at the moment.”





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