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"I often cry on my way to work." Three early childhood educators on the free child care scheme.

Last week, the federal government announced that child care services will become “fee-free for families” during the coronavirus crisis.

Announced as part of their economic response to the pandemic, the government provided the immediate financial relief in response to the alarming rate of families un-enrolling their children from child care.

For child care services, it means they will receive a ‘business continuity payment’ equivalent to 50 per cent of their pre-pandemic fee revenue.

Listen: Dr Norman Swan on three ways Australian quarantine might end. Post continues after audio. 

Early Childhood Australia supported the scheme, with CEO Samantha Page saying the announcement “tackles most of the big issues that services and families have been grappling with over the past month”.

However, it seems early childhood educators aren’t actually that pleased with the package. Why?

Mamamia spoke to three early childhood educators* about their thoughts on the new package. Here’s what they had to say.

“I often cry on my way to work.”

When the free child care scheme was announced, the educators I work with were mostly upset and angry. It made us feel more undervalued than we already did, which is really saying something.

As time goes on we have realised that the scheme is probably our only chance to stay viable through this pandemic. But the impact on educators is huge. We have no access to personal protective equipment and zero chance of distancing from the very young children we care for. I often cry on my way to work because I feel so overwhelmed. I have a family I am worried about and I’m honestly terrified about the repercussions if COVID-19 is in the centre.

We are apparently frontline workers now, but if that’s true, why aren’t we being protected more? Why can children who don’t need to be here still come? Why are we doing all this for less than, sometimes a lot less than, $30 an hour? We don’t understand and feel like we are being sacrificed for the economy.

Watch: A clinical and health psychologist helps break down how you can help your children if they’re suffering with anxiety during the pandemic. Post continues after video. 

Video by Mamamia

 “It doesn’t minimise the financial loss.”

The special child care package doesn’t minimise the financial loss we are experiencing for our service. It is helpful and better than nothing, of course. However, it is not sustainable as we continue to take on extra enrollments for working families and children at risk. We are increasing our enrollments, but we are not being supplemented financially as the payment does not increase – it remains a base supplement no matter your daily numbers.

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We continue to have our educators employed as per pre-COVID-19 operations. We have educators whom are currently taking leave to physically distance themselves or care for elderly relatives or to home-school their children.

“I fear for the early childhood services.”

early childhood educators
Image: Getty.

My thoughts on the free childcare are that parents do not understand how massively this will impact services.

I fear for the early childhood services. I think many will shut and by the end of this pandemic we will only be left with the larger organisations as an option for childcare, as they will be the only ones who can weather this storm.

When the government announced that it would be free for parents, it was actually cutting the amount that they originally gave services.

I know of many services who have had to let go of educators, shortened their hours and looked at possibly closing down.

The government has said that services will still be able to apply for JobKeeper. However most centres will still be losing a lot of money by the end of this.

The impact on the workers are that many have already lost their jobs, many will have to take lesser hours, and the desire to be seen as professionals that we have been working so hard for in the last 15 to 20 years will be gone.

* The names of the early childhood educators who spoke to Mamamia have been omitted for privacy reasons. 

Feature Image: Getty.


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