FiveAA Mornings with Leon Byner – waiving of gap fees during lockdown

Thursday, 22 July 2021

LEON BYNER, HOST: Now the Federal spokeswoman for Labor for early childhood education has raised concerns that child care in this State are still slugging families with gap fees on days their children stay at home. Now, again, that’s really unfair, because we in a sense are paying for something we’re not getting. And the other question is, if there’s lockdowns, you wouldn’t expect them to be going to get the service anyway, because the kids are at home. So let’s talk with Amanda Rishworth, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education. Amanda, what feedback have you had about this?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I’ve had a lot of concerns from parents who are doing the right thing, staying at home, and they are getting charged a gap. But it’s actually not the centre’s fault, it’s a legal requirement that the government has, to charge these gaps fees. So even if centres wanted to give families relief, they actually can’t do that. And that’s really affecting families that may have lost work, but also that are juggling kids at home and having to see this large chunk of money come out of their bank accounts.

BYNER: The thing that amazes me under Consumer Law, you’d think it was a fundamental proposition that nobody should be prepared, or be required lawfully, to pay for something they’re not getting. So why is this an exception?

RISHWORTH: Well, this is important. Because the government says that if you go to child care, you get a portion paid for by the government, and of course a portion paid by the parents. The centres, if you didn’t pay the gap, the centres won’t get the amount from the government you see. So centres are in a real catch 22 – they need to keep operating during this pandemic for essential workers,  but the government is saying that you will lose the money from the government if you don’t charge the gap fees. So it is really difficult. Now Labor proposed an amendment in the Parliament last year, that in the event of a lockdown or a stay at home order, then it would be automatic that centres could waive the gap fee. Unfortunately, the Government rejected that.

BYNER: What was their argument by rejecting it by the way?

RISHWORTH: They didn’t put up an argument they just voted against it.

BYNER: Well I think we’ve got to force them into a corner and make them explain.

RISHWORTH: Absolutely. Now they’ve recently done this in New South Wales, where they have allowed centres to waive the gap fee. But what they haven’t done is what they did in Victoria last year, is support the centres with that loss in revenue. So in Victoria last year, they said waive the gap fee for parents and they put a financial package in to support those centres. They haven’t done that in New South Wales. And they haven’t even legally allowed them to waive the gap fees in South Australia. So I really feel that they are just playing catch up with this, when we’ve been in this situation for 18 months, they should know what the response should be, and should just get on with the job and support families and centres at the same time.

BYNER: Who is the Federal Minister that’s got to wave the wand here?

RISHWORTH: Alan Tudge. And of course, we gave him the legislative authority to not have to change the legislation, so he doesn’t have to come back to Parliament, it is merely a direction from the Minister. So he could do it at any point. So I wrote to him yesterday urging him to allow for South Australian gap fees to be waived, but importantly also asked him to put in the type of package that was put into Victoria last year, to support centres to keep their doors open at the same time.

BYNER: I’ll talk to Alan Tudge, Amanda, she’s the Shadow Minister of Early Childhood Education.

ENDS

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