FiveAA Breakfast – child care sector in crisis

Wednesday, 01 April 2020

SUBJECTS: Potential child care sector collapse.

WILL GOODINGS, PRESENTER: We have repeatedly received texts from listeners, who in the midst of conversations about schooling and teachers in this pandemic, and where kids should be to be safe for them and their families, what is the role of child care? It hasn’t been spoken about as much, and what now are the impacts of social distancing and lockdowns on the industry? Amy is the Director of Tiny Tots Academy in Morphett Vale, Amy good morning to you.

AMY, DIRECTOR TINY TOTS ACADEMY: Good morning.

DAVID PENBERTHY, PRESENTER: So what impact has the coronavirus had on your business so far Amy?

AMY: It’s had a pretty significant impact so far, daily attendance and enrolments have dropped significantly. Especially in the last week, week and a half. We’re running at probably below 30 per cent of attendances at the moment and we’ve got all our staff still on board to be concerned about as well.

PENBERTHY: My understanding of the way it works, principally because I’m in this situation myself, is if you don’t send your child but they’re still enrolled you have to keep paying. But are you saying that you, like so many other child care centres, are in a situation where people are saying I’m actually pulling my child out, so they’re off the books which means they’re no longer providing you with any income?

AMY: We have had a few, but a lot of our parents have been amazingly supportive of us. So they haven’t completely unenrolled their children yet, they’re kind of hoping something can be done very soon to help them with the payments. Because they don’t want us to close either, so they’re trying to support us as much as they can but their hands are a bit tied if they don’t have any income themselves.

GOODINGS: When we’ve spoken about schools we’ve been contacted by teachers who have said we don’t know how we feel about being at the coalface of this thing, being asked to go and care for large groups of kids when everyone else is being told to stay in groups no larger than two now. Have you had any staff raise concerns or not want to work at this time?

AMY: Not at this stage, not not wanting to work. Of course they’re concerned not only for the children’s safety but theirs as well. They have to go out and do grocery shopping so they don’t know who they’ve come into contact with. So obviously there’s a bit of concern there, but none of our staff have not wanted to come in to support the children.

PENBERTHY: It’s a story that’s replicated across so many child care centres here and nationally. Amanda Rishworth is the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Amanda thanks for joining us. What do you think should be done to solve this problem or to address this problem?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: As you’ve pointed out what you’ve got is families that are finding financial stress and if they stay enrolled they have to pay a gap fee. If they un-enrol they don’t pay a gap fee, but of course what the centres then miss out on as well is the Government subsidy, and this is what’s causing pain for so many centres. On average a child care centre relies for about 62 per cent on Government subsidy, so that’s the money that gets paid by the Government in addition to the gap fee parents pay.

A simple solution could well be if parents want to take their children out at this current time when they feel they can care for them at home, to not have to charge parents the gap fee and actually for the Government to keep paying the subsidy the centre would otherwise get. That could potentially keep staff on board, keep them operating for essential service workers, because I think a lot of early educators understand they are caring for the children of essential workers and that is a really important role they are undertaking. So that could be a simple solution, a lot of centres have begged for that, families have begged for that as well, so that centres still get some income but parents don’t have to pay gap fees and they don’t have to un-enrol them, but can withdraw them at the moment until this crisis is over.

PENBERTHY: Yes it’s concerning, I’m not sure what shape the sector is going to be in when we emerge the other side of this. Amy from Tiny Tots Morphett Vale and Amanda the Member for the southern suburbs seat of Kingston, thank you both for joining us this morning.

ENDS

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