Parents denied PM’s ‘free’ childcare
Childcare centres are refusing to care for kids despite the Prime Minister's "free" childcare pledge leaving parents in the lurch.
Angry parents have revealed that some childcare operators have told them to keep their kids at home until the current arrangements run out on June 28.
The bizarre outcome means that thousands of parents are missing out on "free" childcare despite taxpayers pumping a stunning $1.6 billion into the sector.
Under the plan, the Morrison Government agreed to pay half of the operating costs of Australia's 13,000 childcare and early learning centres after plummeting attendance rates in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
But now some childcare operators claim they can't provide care for all of the children enrolled as attendance rises because government subsidies remain frozen at 50 per cent of the normal rate until July.
Childcare workers' wages are also being subsidised by the $1500 a fortnight JobKeeper scheme.
But Early Childhood Australia CEO Sam Page said some childcare workers are refusing to turn up for work, preferring to stay at home and claim the $1500 a fortnight JobKeeper allowance.
"One of the difficulties about JobKeeper is we do hear from employees is once you get someone on JobKeeper is it's hard to require them to come into work," she said.
"There are workers who are worried about COVID-19. So, if they can manage on JobKeeper and stay at home some prefer to do that."
While larger operators including GoodStart have been able to provide care for most parents who need it even if it means running some services at a short-term loss, other smaller operators argue they can't risk that.
Education Minister Dan Tehan's deadline to give parents four weeks' notice about what happens after the free childcare pledge runs out on Sunday.
Mr Tehan defended the current scheme as designed to protect the childcare sector at a time when many feared it would collapse as worried parents took their kids out of childcare because of the coronavirus or job losses.
"The Government's Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package was introduced because Australia's child care centres were experiencing mass withdrawals which threatened their ability to provide care and continuity of education, particularly to the children of essential workers,'' he told news.com.au.
He stressed that priority for places was for nurses, doctors and teachers and other essential workers.
"Child care providers that receive the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package are expected to remain open and provide free child care, prioritising care to the children of essential workers, vulnerable children and children whose families have an existing relationship with the service," he said.
"A four-week review of the Government's emergency child care relief package found the package had succeeded in its objective of keeping services open and viable, with 99 per cent of around 13,400 services operational as of 8 May 2020.
"The Government continues to review and assess the relief package in light of our success at flattening the curve and other issues raised by the new system. We need to consider how the package can best support economic recovery, help parents to get back to work and study, and ensure children's early childhood education and wellbeing."
Ms Page said childcare operators risked running at a loss as attendance rates returned to normal.
"Some services are allocating lower hours to all parents," she said.
"Other services have asked parents what job they do and whether they need to send kids to care. We have said to the government they need to give us some clarity on what they expect.
"I absolutely can see the frustration on both sides. We are seeing demand for childcare services starting to pick up.
"It's not good for the relationship between parents and centres."
Originally published as Parents denied PM's 'free' childcare