Last updated 21/9/2020

The early childhood education and care sector (ECEC), along with the rest of the community, is experiencing the impacts of the COVID-19 virus and the significant challenges it poses to the families, early childhood educators and providers of early childhood education and care services.

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) is advocating to the government, on behalf of the ECEC sector, and our plan is to identify information useful to early learning services, as you navigate these challenging circumstances and review your contingency plans.

  • Scroll down for news, government updates and links.
  • Or click here for practical ideas, information, resources and support to share with families or to assist your educational practice, your team or early learning service.

Latest

Monday 21 September: The Morrison Government will provide an additional $305.6 million for families and child care providers to deliver hip pocket relief and ensure the sector remains open to help drive the COVID-19 recovery. The Child Care Recovery Package includes additional and targeted support for Victorian providers in light of the second wave lockdown. Click here what’s included in the package.

The Victorian Government has released a full program via the Victoria Together platform of free and low-cost online events, activities and attractions for the school holidays, visit here. And read the media release here.

Thursday 17 September:Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education James Merlino announced $26.7 million in extra funding to support early childhood services as they reopen to all Victorian children on 5 October. Read the media release here.

Monday 7 September: Accounting firm KPMG released a report calling on the government to increase the Child Care Subsidy. The report argues that increasing the CCS to 95% will improve women’s participation in the workforce and boost Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19. ECA welcomes this report as it builds on other research in this space arguing that early education and care costs are too high. Read our media release here. 

Monday 31 August: The Australian Education Union has put a submission to the federal government to invest in public schools, preschools and TAFE in its coronavirus recovery Budget. The aim of the submission is to provide decades of equity, opportunity, security and future prosperity for all Australians. Read the media release here.

Tuesday 25 August: ECA made a submission to the Australian Government providing advice on the 2020 Budget, which will be handed down on 6 October. The ECA submission addresses the particular challenges the sector is facing in the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for more investment to support young children and early education and care services.  Read our media release about it here

Wednesday 19 August: The NSW Government announced an extension of the COVID-19 relief funding for community and mobile preschools to the end of Term 4. Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said the continued funding recognises the importance of helping families keep children engaged in preschool education. ECA welcomes this decision, read our media release here.

Wednesday 12 August: Click here to read the latest news on Victoria and answer to a new FAQ ‘How do we know which families are entitled to education and care under Stage 4 restrictions?’

Wednesday 5 August: Federal Minister Dan Tehan and the Prime Minister made a joint media statement announcing new measures for Victoria including 5% increase to transition payment for early learning services in Melbourne, capacity to waive the parent fee and an additional 30 days allowable absences for financial year 2020/21. See ECA’s response Media Release here

Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 August: details of the Victorian government’s ‘permitted worker scheme’ have been provided, which allow children of ‘permitted workers’ to attend early learning services and schools during the Stage 4 lockdown on provision of a valid permit. Click for details. And a downloadable form and details of ‘Child care and kinder access for permitted workers’ are available at this link.

Thursday 30 July: Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has announced additional funding for Outside School Hours Care services (OSHC) located within metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown. OSHC services will be eligible for the Additional Viability Support Payment—15 per cent of their revenue—if they can show an attendance drop to 40 per cent or less since 20 July 2020. This payment will be in addition to the existing 25 per cent Transition Payment and Child Care Subsidy payments. Read the full media release here.

Tuesday 28 July: The Department of Education, Skills and Training (DESE) are conducting a survey of early childhood education and care services from 31 July to 5 August 2020 about the current measures to support the transition back to CCS. Services will receive the survey via email by 3pm Friday 31 July.

Tuesday 21 July: For services that remain open for permitted workers, you can find information from the Victoria Department of Education and Training website here: Click here to learn more

Department of Education, Skills & Employment (DESE)

Friday 19 June: The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) update: Process for reviewing and submitting the Transition Payment Grant offerTransition Payment Guidelines, a new information session (providing more details about the grant offer, the transition arrangements for the end of the Relief Package and return to CCS, and what providers and families need to do to prepare.) And new information sheets and Frequently Asked Questions are also available on transition arrangements: Information for Child Care Subsidy approved providersInformation for Family Day Care providersInformation for providers delivering Vacation Care onlyInformation for families.

ECA Member Summaries

ECA has developed three Member Summaries: one, covering the government’s relief package, another on health and hygiene measures and a third Member Summary released Friday 29 May covering mental health and wellbeing for early childhood educators and their directors, manager, principals and leaders.

  1. Find the ECA Member Summary: Health and Hygiene (current to 29 May 2020) here.
  2. Find the ECA Member Summary: Mental Health and Wellbeing (current to 29 May 2020) is available here.

ECA’s statement on encouraging vulnerable groups in ECEC to protect themselves here, and find blogs and educator resources here.

Official government contacts and websites for services and providers:

  • Australian Government Department of Health:  Health.gov.au and state & territory health sites
  • Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment: www.dese.gov.au/news/coronavirus-covid-19
  • 24/7 National Coronavirus Health information line: 1800 020 080
  • Child Care Subsidy Help Desk 1 300 667 276 or ccshhelpdesk@dese.gov.au
  • It is important for services to update details on the Child Care Finder website: www.childcarefinder.gov.au/
  • Support for businesses (does not include NFP): Business.gov.au
  • Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws:  Fairwork.gov.au

The latest updates: Victoria

September:

  • The Victorian Government has released a full program via the Victoria Together platform of free and low-cost online events, activities and attractions for the school holidays, visit here. And read the media release here.

August:

FAQ’s for Victoria

My service is now in Stage 4 lockdown. Do we need to close?

Your service is only required to close down if instructed to do so by health authorities, due to a case of COVID-19. The Victorian Chief Health Officer advises that early childhood education and care services remain safe places for staff and children.

Under the Stage 4 lockdown, early childhood education and care services (including kindergartens) will cease normal operations from 6 August 2020. From this date, services may provide sessions of education and care for two categories of children only:

  • the children of ‘permitted workers’
  • vulnerable children – the Victorian Government provides the following examples: ‘children in out of home care or known to child protection, medically/socially vulnerable children, Koori children’.

Information on the worker permit scheme is available here from the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training advises that ‘vulnerable children’ are those:

  • residing in the care of the State or in out-of-home care; or
  • deemed vulnerable by a government agency, funded family or family violence service, and assessed as requiring education and care outside the family home; or
  • identified by a school/service as vulnerable, including where the vulnerability is the result of severe family stress (including via referral from a government agency, or funded family or family violence service, homeless or youth justice service or mental health or other health service).

Are we supposed to be providing ‘learning from home’ for children in lockdown?

The Victorian Department of Education and Training is encouraging services in the Stage 4 lockdown zone to ‘make reasonable efforts to engage with families and support learning from home, in line with the families’ individual circumstances and resources’. The Department has a website with advice and resources for supporting learning from home for young children.

How do we know which families are entitled to education and care under Stage 4 restrictions? (added 12 August) 

Permitted workers’ are able to access onsite childcare and kindergarten if there is no one else in their household who is able to supervise the children.

It is up to families to make this assessment about their eligibility. Early childhood education and care services have no independent way of verifying which families are eligible for sessions of care.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training provides further detail on permitted workers’ eligibility. The Department notes that:

  • if there is another carer in the household, permitted workers can still access onsite childcare if the other parent/carer cannot supervise the child/ren.
  • both carers do not have to be permitted workers to access early education and care – but the Government is asking that families only use services if they have to.

Federal government JobKeeper payment

The government removed the early childhood education and care sector will be removed from the JobKeeper program by 20 July 2020, with the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional CCS reactivated from 13 July. Instead of JobKeeper, all early education and care services will receive a new Transition Payment, which will equate to 25 per cent of fee revenue or the hourly rate cap (whichever is lower) in the reference fortnight, which is the fortnight ending 2 March 2020.

Stay up-to-date and learn about eligibility and other details of JobKeeper from The Treasury – click here – or from the Australian Taxation Office here.

General ECA FAQs on COVID-19 

Note: Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has assembled the following information from official Australian Government sources and continue to update our FAQs based on information from the Department of Education Skills and Employment. We recommend that all early childhood education and care services continue to monitor information on the Australian Government’s health and education websites, plus information from local health authorities

My local government area has been declared a COVID-19 ‘hotspot’. Is it safe for us to operate?

It is possible to operate safely in a ‘hotspot’ area, but you will need to pay close attention to:

  • hygiene, including handwashing and coughing
  • cleaning of hard surfaces, toys and other resources
  • and physical distancing between adults.

SafeWork Australia has provided helpful advice on how to do this. ECA has also produced videos on operating safely, with tips from government health officials.

What is happening when the Relief Package finishes on 12 July? (updated 4/08/2020)

The Australian Government’s Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package finished on 12 July. The Child Care Subsidy and parent fees resumed from 13 July.

All providers were invited to accept Transition Payments, set at 25 per cent of their fee revenue, or the hourly rate cap (whichever is lower), for the reference period, which is the fortnight ending 2 March 2020. There are conditions associated with the Transition Payment. In order to receive the payment, providers must:

  • Keep fees at the same level as the reference period (the fortnight ending 2 March 2020)
  • Continue to employ ‘those employees over the transition period who were working or being paid JobKeeper at the end of the Relief Package’.

Information on the Transition Payments can be found on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website and FAQ page.

What if parents can’t afford fees from 13 July? (updated 4/08/2020)

The government has instituted a temporary change to the activity test, so that families ‘who have had their hours of activity reduced as a result of COVID-19’ can receive 100 hours per fortnight of subsidised education and care, for up to 12 weeks. The subsidy rate will depend on the family’s income. To gain access to this entitlement, families will need to log in to their Centrelink online account.

Families may also be eligible for Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship). These families do not have to meet the activity test and are entitled to up to 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight, at a subsidy equal to the actual fee charged by the provider, up to 120 per cent of the CCS hourly rate cap. You can find information on ACCS (temporary financial hardship) on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.

Note that providers are not allowed to waive gap fees. The only exceptions to this rule are; (a) providers in Victoria subject to Stage 3 COVID-19 restrictions; and (b) services required to close on health advice, due to COVID-19 exposure.

What if our service needs extra financial support? (updated 4/08/2020)

Applications for the Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment ceased on 20 June 2020. From 13 July, services experiencing viability problems may apply for Child Care Community Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances grants

Do I need to implement physical distancing measures in early education facilities? (added 22/05/2020)

SafeWork Australia has shared a helpful piece of advice on whether the ‘four square metre rule’ applies to early childhood education settings:

Yes, in relation to adults to adult interactions.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advises adults to undertake physical distancing when interacting with other adults, in areas such as staff rooms and when picking up or dropping off children.

As stated above, current health advice is that undertaking physical distancing involves each person having 4 square meters of space and maintaining a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres from others where possible.

This means that in order to fulfil your work health and safety duty you must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure all adults have 4 square metres of space each and maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from other adults in all areas of the facility. This includes staff facilities such as kitchens and break rooms and in play rooms.

Adults do not need to undertake physical distancing when interacting with or providing care to children. This means you do not need to count or include children in implementing physical distancing measures for adults.

Children do not need to undertake physical distancing. The AHPPC has advised that in early education facilities including rooms, corridors and outdoor play areas, it is not appropriate or practical to provide each child with 4 square metres of space or require them to maintain 1.5 metres from other children or from an adult who is providing care or interacting with them.

However, you may find that separating children into small groups throughout the facility and utilising both indoor and outdoor spaces during the day will make it easier for workers (and other adults) to maintain their distance from other workers and adults.

Deciding what physical distancing measures are reasonably practicable to implement in your facility will depend on all the circumstances including the safety, educational and wellbeing needs of children. See also our information on risk assessments. 

What should I do if a child at my service develops a high temperature?

Educators should attend to sick children in the usual way. Follow your regular policies on managing illness. Unwell children should remain at home until their symptoms resolve.

As an additional measure, you may wish to inform all parents and carers of the typical symptoms of COVID-19 infection:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing.

What if a child at our service is diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you believe that a child or staff member at your service is a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must do two things:

Your Department of Health will instruct you on next steps. Any decision on whether to close your service temporarily should be made in consultation with health officials.

If a parent is diagnosed with COVID-19, do we have to close our service?

No. However, any member of that parent’s household should be denied entry to the service within 14 days of exposure (including the 24 hours before the case became symptomatic).

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recommended on 3 April 2020 that anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days should not be permitted entryto an early childhood education and care service. This applies to children, families, staff and any other visitors.

If a parent or carer using your service is diagnosed with COVID-19, their ‘close contacts’ will be advised by health authorities to begin immediate self-isolation. A ‘close contact’ is someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was infectious (including the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared).

Anyone who believes they have had direct close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 should contact their local Department of Health. Health officials will provide further advice.

I have older staff and staff with underlying medical conditions. How do I protect them?

On 30 March, the National Cabinet issued the following advice regarding employees at higher risk of illness from COVID-19:

‘National Cabinet endorsed the AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] advice on vulnerable people in the workplace, specifically that the following people are, or are likely to be, at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with the virus:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • People 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions. Conditions included in the definition of ‘chronic medical conditions’ will be refined as more evidence emerges.
  • People 70 years and older
  • People with compromised immune systems (see Department of Health website).
  • ‘National Cabinet noted that the new AHPPC advice on the higher risk categories for people 65 years and older with chronic conditions had changed based on more up to date medical advice.

‘In addition, National Cabinet endorsed the AHPPC advice that:

  • Where vulnerable workers undertake essential work, a risk assessment must be undertaken.
  • Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated with consideration of the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. This includes ensuring vulnerable people are redeployed to noncustomer based roles where possible. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and employees should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence.
  • Special provisions apply to essential workers who are at higher risk of serious illness and, where the risk cannot be sufficiently mitigated, should not work in high risk settings.
  • Excluding healthcare settings where appropriate PPE and precautions are adhered to, the
  • AHPPC considers that, given the transmission characteristics of the virus, the following settings are at higher risk of outbreaks of coronavirus – correctional and detention facilities and group residential settings.

Employers have a legal obligation to try to protect their staff from COVID-19. According to Safe Work Australia, all employers ‘must identify risks at the workplace, and do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate those risks, or where this is not reasonably practicable, to minimise those risks.’

In relation to COVID-19, Safe Work Australia says that ‘You will not be able to completely eliminate the risk of workers contracting COVID-19 while carrying out work. However you must do all that is reasonably practicable to minimise that risk.’ You can find advice on how to do this on the Safe Work Australia website.

What hygiene and cleaning measures do we need to adopt? (updated 23/04/2020)

Keep practising good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. This means:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with a tissue, or cough into your elbow.
  • Dispose of the tissue into a bin and then wash your hands afterwards.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet and before eating.

Soap and hand sanitiser are both effective at killing the COVID-19 virus, provided you clean hands thoroughly.

In addition, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recommends the following hygiene and cleaning measures for early education and care services:

  • enhanced personal hygiene for children, staff and parents
    • make sure liquid soap and running water, or alcohol-based hand sanitiser is available at the entrance of the facility and throughout
  • full adherence to the NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines, and in addition:
    • clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least daily (e.g. play gyms, tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
    • wash and launder play items and toys including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.

Some state and territory governments are also providing detailed guidance on cleaning measures for all workplaces. Please check your state or territory health department website for any more detailed guidance

How often should children be cleaning their hands?

There is no firm advice on this. Health experts say that people should wash their hands ‘often’, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser.

Is it safe for my early education and care service to be operating?

According to the health experts advising governments in Australia, early education and care services ‘are essential services’ and should keep operating, ‘but with risk mitigation measures in place’.

On 3 April 2020, the national health group dealing with COVID-19 (the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee) released an official statement on COVID-19 in children and management of Early Childhood and Learning Centres (ECLC) in relation to the community transmission of COVID‑19.

The committee recommends that, in order to stay safe, early education and care services should adopt the following measures:

  • exclusion of unwell staff, children and visitors
  • reduce mixing of children by separating cohorts (including the staggering of meal and play times)
  • enhanced personal hygiene for children, staff and parents
    • make sure liquid soap and running water, or alcohol-based hand sanitiser is available at the entrance of the facility and throughout
  • full adherence to the NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines, in addition:
    • clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least daily (e.g. play gyms, tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
    • wash and launder play items and toys including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely
  • excursions other than to local parks should be discouraged, public playground equipment should not be used
  • influenza vaccination for children, staff and parents.

The following visitors and staff (including visiting workers) should not be permitted to enter services:

  • Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days.
  • Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
    • A contact is defined as anyone who has been in contact with a known case, including the 24 hours before the case became symptomatic.
  • Those with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath) symptoms.

Alternative care arrangements should be considered for those children highly vulnerable to adverse outcomes should they be infected with COVID-19. AHPPC recommends parents seek medical advice for these children.

What is the incubation period for COVID-19, when does someone become infectious and when do symptoms start?

The ‘incubation period’ is the time between being exposed to the virus and the start of symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 has an incubation period of 1-14 days, with the most common incubation period being five days.

People are considered to be infectious once they develop symptoms, and for the 24 hours before they develop symptoms.

COVID-19 spreads through small droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person, which are expelled through coughing or exhaling.

We have run out of soap. What do we do?

Please contact your local Regulatory Authorityto ask for help in sourcing cleaning supplies, including soap.

The NSW Department of Health advises that there are alternatives to soap that work just as well. These include:

  • Body wash
  • Shampoo
  • Combined body wash/shampoo.

What support is there for preschools and kindergartens?

State and territory governments are developing support measures for preschools and kindergartens. You should stay in touch with your local Department of Education for information on current support mechanisms.

Preschools and kindergartens may be eligible for the JobKeeper wage subsidy. See our FAQs relating to JobKeeper. ECA is lobbying the Australian Government to make access to JobKeeper available to all early education and care services.

There are also general business support measures that you might be able to access.

Current support measures for preschools/kindergartens in particular states include:

NSW: The Department of Education will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 30 December 2020 based on information provided in the August 2019 Annual Preschool Census.  This will support funding continuity and viability for services impacted by COVID -19 such as through reduced enrolments.

For mobile preschools on contracts, funding arrangements remain in place as outlined in your funding agreement through to 30 June 2020. Mobile preschool contracts will then be extended to 31 December 2020 to support funding continuity and viability.

On 9 April 2020, the NSW Government announced that it would also (a) cover the parents’ portion of preschool fees in 700 State-funded community preschools and 38 mobile services; and (b) support 260 council childcare centres that are not eligible for the JobKeeper payments, for a period of up to six months.

Victoria: The Department of Education will continue to provide all existing streams of kindergarten funding: Early Years Management; School Readiness Funding; Kindergarten Inclusion Support; and Preschool Field Officer funding. If services have to close due to coronavirus (COVID-19), service providers will still receive this funding.

In addition, the Victorian Government announced on 5 April 2020 extra funding for sessional kindergartens for Term 2. Each sessional provider in Victoria will receive ‘approximately $485’ for each child enrolled, and parents will not pay any fees in Term 2. This applies to community-based, local government and school providers.

QLD: Community kindergartens and state delivered kindergartens in Queensland observed student-free days from 30 March to 3 April 2020, although they remained open for the children of essential workers and children experiencing vulnerability. The student-free days were designed to allow teachers ‘time to prepare for increased online learning or alternative options if they are needed in term 2’.

The Department of Education had earlier advised that it will continue to pay for the delivery of kindergarten through the Queensland Kindergarten Funding Scheme until the end of December 2020. These funds will be based on semester one forecast. The Department will also be providing additional funding, as an extension of the existing QKFS model to supplement workforce costs. This payment was to be released immediately to kindergartens.

On 12 April, the Queensland government announced $17 million support package for community kindergartens struggling with falling enrolments from the global COVID-19 pandemic. More information can be found here. 

My state/territory government is relaxing restrictions on social and business activity. What does this mean for early education and care services? (updated 21/05/2020)

State and territory governments have begun lifting restrictions on economic and social activity, in response to progress in limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

On 8 May 2020, the Australian Government released a plan for the further relaxation of restrictions. The lifting of restrictions includes a return to face-to-face learning in schools and a return to workplaces for many Australians who have been based at home. The pace of change in restrictions will be determined by state and territory governments, and will differ around the country.

Do I need to implement physical distancing measures in early education facilities? (added 22/05/2020)

SafeWork Australia has shared a helpful piece of advice on whether the ‘four square metre rule’ applies to early childhood education settings.

Yes, in relation to adults. 

You must so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure all adults have 4 square metres of space each and maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres between each adult in all areas of the facility. This includes staff facilities such as kitchens and break rooms and in play rooms.

You do not need to count or include children in implementing physical distancing measures. However, you may find that separating children into small groups throughout the facility and utilising both indoor and outdoor spaces during the day will make it easier for workers (and other adults) to maintain their distance from one another. 

Deciding what physical distancing measures are reasonably practicable to implement in your facility will depend on all the circumstances including the safety, educational and wellbeing needs of children. 

You can find out more information here on the SafeWork Australia website.

What ECA says

ECA encourages vulnerable groups to protect themselves

ECA is watching developments closely on government health advice and announcements on COVID-19. Based on the government announcements last night (Sunday 29 March), ECA encourages people in vulnerable groups to consider carefully whether they should be working in face-to-face roles in early childhood settings.

We encourage you to discuss arrangements, leave or alternative work from home options—e.g. programming, planning, communicating with families online—with your manager, director or Co-ordination Unit. Governments around Australia are recommending that several groups should ‘self-isolate at home to the maximum extent practicable’, including:

  • People of any age with an existing chronic health problem, including but not limited to, diabetes, heart, respiratory conditions or suppressed immune systems
  • People living with household members who have any of these risk factors should consider their arrangements
  • Indigenous people aged over 50 should stay home wherever possible for their own protection
  • People aged over 60 with pre-existing conditions (not limited to those above).
  • Please consider this carefully, work out the best options for yourself and discuss with your employer or Co-ordination Unit advisor.

Find a Federal Department of Health list of groups most at risk of infection or most at risk of serious consequences if infected here: bit.ly/3bEczui.

Updates on all COVID-19 government announcements can be found here:
www.australia.gov.au.

ECA advocacy for the sector

ECA has been constantly in contact with Australian governments around the country and with educators, services and sector leaders calling for more realistic and sustainable measures from the Federal government to support the safety and wellbeing of educators and children as well as secure jobs and financial viability now and for the future.

Together with other peaks, we wrote to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Education when the COVID-19 virus was first identified as a looming threat to the sector. Our letter underlined the critical importance of the early childhood sector to young children, families, and the Australian community and economy. We called for ‘robust funding mechanisms’ to maintain sector financial viability and ensure children continue their access to early learning. Part of our advocating measures are to ensure affected families are not disadvantaged if a service is required to close due to COVID-19 or if a family needs to self-isolate.

In one week alone ECA secured 166 media items that focus on the issues we’ve been raising and achieved a reach of 56 million. This includes 100 radio items featuring ECA’s CEO, Samantha Page, advocating for the sector. Some examples of media coverage achieved through the early child sector, ECA or featuring comments and interviews with CEO Samantha Page include:

We continue to provide feedback and advocate to the Minister for Education, Skills and Employment, Dan Tehan, to ensure that the needs of the early childhood sector, families and children are understood when devising measures to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 across the community.

ECA’s Media coverage:

ECA disagrees with the decision to remove JobKeeper from the early education and care sector and believes that a future fall in demand for places in early learning services and the weak economic outlook will impact the sector although the effect is not clear until more data is available. ECA will continue to monitor the situation and has also called for:

  • an overall increase to the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) of 10-15%
  • suspension of the Activity Test
  • easier access to Additional Child Care subsidy for families in financial hardship and children at risk, as well as
  • more support for vulnerable communities including services operated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

ECA COVID-19 media releases 

ECA ‘In the news’

Other media coverage:

Extensive media coverage of advocacy: Some examples of wide media coverage of the issues and of ECA’s advocacy for children, educators and the early childhood sector include:

Statement on ECA’s role

Early Childhood Australia has received a lot of comments since the government announced its radical new package for the early childhood education and care sector last week. We’ve also been the subject of much speculation about our role.

While ECA has been constantly advocating on behalf of the sector, we were not invited by the Minister to design the package. ECA did not receive any advance warning about the measures and had no knowledge of the content until the package was announced.

More than a month ago we began talking to the Federal Government about the importance of strong support measures for the sector. We pushed for decisive, urgent action in the face of the sector’s imminent collapse.

We will continue to advocate for the sector’s ongoing viability and for the health and safety of educators and young children. We will also seek more explicit support and directives on safe practices during the pandemic.

We will continue to call for transparent government decision-making and clear messages too.

We appreciate the messages of support from some of you and are glad to see so many writing directly to governments, ministers and members of parliament about their concerns. It’s vital that the government and your parliamentary representatives understand the impact of ‘closed door’ decision-making.

You are also welcome to send your modelling and examples to us at policy@earlychildhood.org.au to inform our ongoing advocacy to government.

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect our sector and the community for many more months. There is a lot of work ahead and many questions to be answered.

Thank you for your dedication and professionalism in such difficult and uncertain times.

Staying up-to-date

Early childhood services can stay informed with fact sheets and updates from the Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment the Department of Health and the World Health Organization. You can also read the government’s business package announcement here.

As the situation evolves, we will seek ways to provide information and support to the sector, over the next weeks and months.

  • You can revisit this page to check for updates
  • Members will receive regular Member Updates on the impacts of the pandemic
  • Subscribe to ECA’s fortnightly e-newsletter WebWatch which will feature updates on ECA’s COVID-19 response
  • Visit ECA’s blog site, The Spoke
  • You can subscribe here to both WebWatch and The Spoke or choose a weekly summary of ECA member COVID-19 updates, which we are making available to non-members for a short time during this crisis.

What are others saying

On 12 June Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development, Amanda Rishworth issued a media release: ‘Early learning sector slams government’s child care snap back‘. Women’s Agenda (18 May) reports on a campaign by The Parenthood, (a not-for-profit organisation representing the views of parents and primary caregivers) which urges the government to ‘urgently address some of the problems that have emerged with the COVID19 [ECEC Relief] package’. Read it here. The risks of a “premature” snap back that would be ‘unaffordable for many parents in the harsh economic environment’ are discussed in this article here (17 May).

Earlier, an article (12 May) covered the ECA submission to the Federal Government’s review of the ECEC Relief package and a recent opinion piece here examined the impacts of the pandemic on the early childhood sector and families (5 May 2020). Or read Lisa Bryant’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 1 April, here.

In a speech on 11 May, ‘Australia beyond the Coronavirus’, Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, described early childhood education as one of ‘the basics of life’ that ‘should be nurtured and made affordable.’

On 22 April Labor’s Shadow Minister, Amanda Rishworth, released a media release about the impact of new government measures. Click here to read her release. In an earlier media release (25 March) Ms Rishworth urged the government to act more quickly to protect the early education sector (28 March) and called on the the Federal Minister to act to save the sector.

In March 2020 the Greens called for protection of the early childhood sector and in a further statement on Wednesday 20 May Senator Mehreen Faruqi urged  government to recognise the ‘essential’ nature of early childhood education and care, the need for a fair and decent sector wage and access for all who need it, not only those who can afford it.