Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement of free childcare in the wake of the Coronavirus is a huge boost for the working parents of Australia.
In the press conference, the PM announced that "If you have a job in this economy then that is an essential job," he said.
"It is important that all of those parents who have children, that they get access to childcare and those facilities will be there for them."
As part of the government's $196 billion stimulus package, parents are given the opportunity to send their children to childcare at no cost for the duration of the Coronavirus.
Valued at $1.6 billion, the fee suspension is designed to help support the thousands of childcare centres in Australia, which provide employment for 200,000 people.
“Relief is on its way for around a million Australian families and thousands of early learning educators and carers,” Mr Morrison 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.
Here we answer your questions on what the changes mean for you and your family.
Is the free childcare only for workers in health care?
No. The free childcare is for working parents, whatever industry they are in. It applies to all families who had their child enrolled in a centre on March 2nd, even if that child is currently not attending.
What types of care are included?
All types of daycare, after school care and holiday care are included in the package.
Is it means tested?
No. The fees are paid for all workers, regardless of their individual or household incomes.
When does it start?
Education Minister Dan Tehan stated that the changes would take place as of Sunday, April 5th 2020. Parents would also have their gap payment backdated to March 23rd 2020.
"It will be a system which will mean parents will get their children cared for for free," he explained. "You do not have to worry about trying to look for new care for your children."
Is anyone given priority?
Mr Tehan explained that preference would be given to children of essential workers, disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children.
"There is a clear priority list that we want centres to take into account," he said. "The most important of those are those essential workers and the vulnerable children."
How do I access the free child care?
You don’t need to do anything at this point if you are already enrolled. Your centre will not charge you for your child’s place at child care as of this Sunday, April 5th 2020.
If you are not currently enrolled in a child care centre, call the centre of your choice or visit Toddle.com.au to find care in your local area. Apply for a place on the Toddle website, and when your days are confirmed you will not have to pay the daily fee.
How do I let a child care centre know that I’m a frontline essential worker?
Here at Toddle.com.au we recently launched a priority enquiry form for parents working in essential services. This means that every enquiry that comes from a parent working in an essential service, will be personally contacted by our enquiry support team and passed on to the relevant centres.
Simply visit the child care centre of your choice on Toddle.com.au and when you hit ‘enquire’ you will be given the chance to advise the centre that you are an essential worker.
Is it safe to use childcare right now?
Yes. The PM stressed that the health advice for schools and childcare centres has not changed.
"There is no health risk to children going to school or going to child care," Mr Morrison said.
Why are they doing this?
Many childcare centres were feeling the pinch, with enrolments down due to virus fears and job losses within the community.
Centres were still running with a reduced number of fee-paying students, driving their profit margins down and making many of their business models unviable.
This package will ensure that centres don’t need to close their doors in order to stay afloat. It will also mean that when parents need childcare in the future, their centres will be open.
"This virus is going to take enough from Australians without putting Australian parents in that position of having to choose between the economic wellbeing of their family or the care and support and education of their children,” Mr Morrison explained.
"I won't cop a situation where a parent is put in that place with their kids."
What if I want to keep my child at home?
If they are still enrolled in the centre, you can keep them at home if you choose and you will not be charged the daily fee. You will also be able to keep your place at the centre, to use when you feel ready.
“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,” Mr Tehan said.
“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.”
What if I’ve unenrolled?
"The hope is that now all parents who need will get the care they want, and those who have sought to disengage from the childcare sector will re-engage with the sector," Mr Tehan said.
The priority is for working families, and parents are encouraged to check on availability with their current centre if they have unenrolled.
"We want people to understand that the priority will be given to those who need to be working," Mr Tehan said.
Can I enrol in a new centre if I haven’t had a place before?
You can. The centre will still be giving priority to current enrolments, children of essential workers and vulnerable children. But if there are spaces available you will be able to take up a spot at a new centre of your choice for no cost during the Coronavirus pandemic.
How long will this last?
At this stage, Mr Tehan said the arrangements will be in place until June 30. There are plans to consider an extension for a further three months after the end of the financial year.
"Obviously for the next six months, while we're dealing with the pandemic, we want those workers who are out there helping us get through the pandemic to be able to get the support they need through free child care."
Click here to read the full government issued statement on free child care during the coronaviris outbreak
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