The federal government has made emergency changes to childcare in Victoria, as families across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire prepare for six weeks of reimposed stage three lockdown restrictions.
On Tuesday night, Education Minister Dan Tehan announced that childcare operators, located in areas subject to the restrictions, would be permitted to waive the gap fee for parents from July 13 if their children do not attend for COVID-19 related reasons. Childcare centres will also be able to claim subsidies for children not attending.
The response from the federal government comes as the free childcare relief package that was introduced in April ends this weekend, reverting to the old system.
Dan Tehan said the emergency changes will help families in Melbourne who choose to keep their children home from care for COVID-related reasons.
“This means that if a child is absent from care for COVID-related reasons, the childcare service can waive their gap fee, which means more money in the family’s pocket,” Tehan said on Tuesday.
“It also provides certainty to families that they will retain their enrolment at the child care service.
“Waiving the parents’ gap fees will also ensure child care services maintain their enrolments and continue to be paid the CCS, even if a child is absent for a COVID-related reason.”
The changes come at an uncertain time for the early childhood education and care sector, as services revert to the old subsidy model and the JobKeeper wage subsidy ends on July 20.
From next week, as parents begin paying fees again, services can access a $70 million Transition Payment and the activity test for families will be eased until October.
Research suggests that the return to childcare fees next week will not be affordable for many families and may result in the reduction of demand for services, as parents choose to reduce the hours or days their children attend.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.