Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced a recovery package over the weekend, aimed at alleviating pressure on parents looking to rejoin the workforce and better support early childhood educators crippled by Victoria’s second wave lockdown.
The $305.6 million package includes targeted support for Victorian providers of centre-based care, family daycare and in-home care.
“Victorian families and providers will continue to be supported by the federal government so they can get back on their feet following the second wave,” Tehan said.
Under the support package, the federal government will further extend the activity testing date until April 4, determining how many hours of subsidised care families can access.
As such, families may be entitled to receive up to 100 hours of subsidised care each fortnight if their activity hours (in other words, time spent fulfilling paid or unpaid work, study or starting a business) have been impacted by COVID-19.
A fee freeze has also been applied until January 31, and providers will be paid a recovery payment of 25% of pre-COVID revenue until the same date.
On top of this, a 40% Recovery Payment for Outside School Hours Care will also start in Victoria when in-school teaching returns later in October.
But while economists have praised the necessary funding, they’ve lamented the government’s unwillingness to think further ahead and implement long-term solutions to childcare.
This sentiment is shared by community organisation The Parenthood.
“This package will give providers and families some additional reprieve which is so desperately needed after more than six very difficult months,” says executive director Georgie Dent.
However, she adds that the measures are “not a substitute for wholesale reform”.
“This pandemic has delivered successive blows to Australia’s early education and care sector, and in Victoria, it’s been most keenly felt,” Dent says.
“For families, educators and children having some certainty as they navigate out of stage four lockdown will be a huge comfort.”
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.