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‘Relief’ as government announces childcare to be free

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The Prime Minister has announced all childcare will become free in an effort to financially support parents whose roles are considered essential.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced early childcare will be free as the government works to support parents who work essential jobs to keep the country moving.

The new support arrangements, which impacts approximately 13,000 facilities across the country, will form part of a new childcare system due to come into place on Sunday night.

Almost one million Australian families will benefit from the measures.

READ MORE: More than half a million Aussies to lose their jobs

Childcare facilities will be assisted by the government in paying wages of their staff.

As part of the plan, the government will pay 50 per cent of the childcare centre's revenue based on a period of time before which parents began removing their children from facilities as a result of COVID-19.

The funding will apply to facilities from April 6, and will be based on the number of children who were in care at the centre prior to March 2 – regardless of whether or not they were attending.

Childcare staff wages will still be supplemented by the government's $1500 JobKeeper payment.

The peak body for childcare in NSW has called for an urgent government inquiry into the soaring costs of childcare.

Jane Chambers, founder and owner of three Bluebird Childcare Centres in Western Australia, said it was a "relief" that the government was thinking of providers but the reality of the scheme was still unknown.

"It's definitely a relief that we've been recognised finally. I've been constantly writing letters to the government, just trying to get the message through that we need help," Ms Chambers told 9News.com.au.

"The way that we were going, we would have had to close our doors in the next couple of weeks."

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Ms Chambers supports 70 permanent staff and said each of her centres were only receiving about 10 children each in recent days.

"It's unclear whether this will help us or not. I'm trying to seek some clarification around whether we can continue to help all of our families who were enrolled with us, or if it's only going to help us with families who require care" explained Ms Chambers.

"A lot of families have chosen to keep their children home due to the strong message from the government which was you shouldn't be leaving your home unless you have a very specific reason for doing so."

Mr Morrison said it was imperative that Australian households be supported, particularly if they have members working in essential jobs.

"Relief is on its way for around a million Australian families and thousands of early learning educators and carers," the Prime Minister said.

"These services are vital for so many parents so they can provide for their family, and children need as much familiarity and continuity as we can help provide at this unsettling time.

"Priority will be given to working parents, vulnerable and disadvantaged children that need early education more than ever and parents with pre-existing enrolments."

On average, 60 per cent of a childcare facilities' expenses are the wages of its staff.

The government said until payments arrive to facilities, services will be allowed to waive gap fees for families who keep their children home, and families will be able to use the 20 extra absence days the government has funded for coronavirus related reasons without giving up their place in a child care centre.

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Minister for Education Dan Tehan said parents who have ended their childcare arrangements are being encouraged to re-connect with their provider.

"If you have terminated your enrolment since 17 February, then I encourage you to get back in contact with your centre and re-start your arrangements," said Mr Tehan.

"Re-starting your enrolment will not require you to send your child to child care and it certainly won't require you to pay a gap fee. Re-starting your enrolment will, however, hold your place for that point in time when things start to normalise, and you are ready to take your child back to their centre.

"We will also make payments of higher amounts available in exceptional circumstances, such as where greater funding is required to meet the needs of emergency workers or vulnerable children."

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Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-australia-childcare-to-be-made-free-to-support-essential-workers/0a6e670c-4b52-4c73-b5d2-1c93dc4e1296

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