Change the ECEC Relief Package to support Family Day Care

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The Early Childhood Education Care Relief Package (CRP) has proven in less than 24 hours to be nothing more than a marketing ploy by the Government to gain some extra votes and appear to be doing the right thing by Aussie families. But what is hidden behind this blanket “Free Child Care for Everyone” banner is the disturbing truth that Early Childhood Educators, without consultation, have been told to continue working despite isolation and social distancing rules and to do so while taking a minimum of a 50% pay cut.

While there will be larger Child Care Centres who will find relief in the offer of free child care, the Family Day Care Sector will collapse. Family Day Care provides childcare in smaller ratios, with flexible hours catering to those much needed essential workers such a nurses etc. who work shifts, nights and weekends. As such Family Day Care has seen a surge in enrolments since the start of March as essential workers sought flexible childcare options for their primary aged children, no longer going to school and their pre-school aged children. The industry was bolstered by Educators who were willing to support these essential workers at their own personal risk, and they were receiving the financial benefit of doing so.

On Thursday 2nd April Our Prime Minister announced from his grandstand that he was providing universal free childcare and the hearts of everyone lifted. But the reality soon sunk in that that still comes at a cost and the cost is to those who are providing the care, opening their homes to families and risking their health and that of their own families.

The Government will now pay all educators based on the attendance in their Family Day Cares between 17th February and 2nd March 2020. The government will only pay 50% of the capped hourly rate of $11.10/hour/child, that equates to $5.55/hour/child. This means a reduction of income greater than 50% and families who had previously taken their children out of care for health and safety reasons, deciding to come back in droves as child care is now free. And the real kicker is that none of these new enrolments will be paid for. And all the new enrolments that educators were receiving income for between 2nd March and 5th April will not be paid for either as these apparently don’t factor in the new CRP. And still Educators are expected to work, provide care and open their homes to families during a global pandemic.

To supplement this, the government is expecting Educators to apply for JobKeeper payments as a sole trader. To date no one can actually apply for JobKeeper, you can only express your interest in applying. Information on who is eligible is scarce and the fear that many Educators will not be eligible for this payment is very real.

How on earth can this work? What about Educators who started their business after 2nd March, or those who were sick or away on holidays between 17th of February and 2nd March? What about those who started their business in January as a new start, who find themselves full now, but were nearly empty in their first couple of months? Or those educators who want to change services as they are uncomfortable with the support they are currently receiving? I could go on and on…

As approved Service Providers within Family Day Care (one of 454 FDC Service Providers across the country), we have been advised not to charge our educators the fees that keep our Service running, the service which they need to legally operate their businesses. We are now operating a business with zero income, unable to pay the rent or draw any income personally as business owners in our attempts to keep our educators operating for as long as possible. We have been advised to apply for JobKeeper to keep the business operating. The problem is JobKeeper needs to be paid to employees, but again this income from JobKeeper will not go to our own pockets to support our own families, it will have to be used to keep the business operational as without the service, our educators cannot legally operate.

In addition, the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) that was in place to support Services and Educators who experienced a loss of 30% or greater in their business, was very quietly closed at 9am Friday 3rd April, just as we were all waking up to the fact we have lost so much overnight. This lifeline that is now so desperately needed in the Family Day Care Sector was right as we all needed it most.

CRP is applicable to Child Care Centres aka Long Day Care and can support those centres who have experienced mass loss of enrolments and can use the JobKeeper payments to support staff wages, but it is not in any way applicable or relevant to Family Day Care. FDC needs to be viewed on its own, as a separate entity that supports approximately 170,000 children across Australia.

At a time when our government is preaching that we must all come together and look after one another, they have hung Family Day Care services and educators out to dry, while expecting them to still open their arms and homes to the public at a time when that is one of the most dangerous things you can do.

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West Coast Family Day Care Services