Morrison must support families and early learning providers

Friday, 23 July 2021

During lockdowns, the Morrison Government has two primary jobs when it comes to early learning – support families, and support providers.

We are almost 18 months into this pandemic, and the government is still failing on both fronts.

Families in lockdown at the moment in Victoria and South Australia are paying for child care they cannot access, because the Morrison Government has not allowed services to waive gap fees.

Labor has maintained our position through the pandemic – when parents are doing the right thing by adhering to stay at home orders and keeping their children at home, they should not be left out of pocket for child care they cannot use.

This situation would have been avoided if the Morrison Government had accepted Labor’s amendment in the Parliament, which would have automatically enabled the waiving of gap fees for areas under stay at home orders.

Labor welcomes the Morrison Government finally conceding and allowing services to waive gap fees in New South Wales. We continue to call on them to do so in other States.

However, to enable early learning providers to waive gap fees for families, the government must provide a support package for the sector.

Early learning centres have had to keep their doors open during lockdowns for the children of essential workers, so it is integral they stay viable and operating.

Given family contributions are estimated to comprise approximately half of total service revenue, services face a serious hit to their viability when gap fees are waived.

By failing to provide extra support for the sector, the Morrison Government is forcing services in New South Wales to decide whether they waive gap fees for families and take a massive hit to their revenue, or keep charging gap fees to try and stay financially afloat.

The solution to this problem is not a mystery to the government – they have the blueprint.

During the prolonged Victorian lockdown last year, the government introduced a financial support package for early learning services that allowed them to stay open to serve essential workers, while surviving waiving gap fees for families and having lower attendance levels. In addition, there was a dedicated $6 million fund for outside school hours care services.

We are close to 18 months into the pandemic, and every time there is a lockdown, the Morrison Government is playing catch up when it comes to early learning.

By this point the government should well and truly know what their response is when there is a lockdown, instead of constantly leaving families and the sector in limbo.

The Morrison Government must support families and providers that are impacted by lockdowns across the country, by allowing the waiving of gap fees for families, and providing a support package for providers.

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