EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE RELIEF PACKAGE
345. Hon JACQUI BOYDELL to the Leader of the House
representing the Minister for Community Services:
My question relates to the federal
government's early childhood education and care relief package
announced on 2 April 2020 in response to COVID-19.
(1) Has the
minister engaged the family day care and centre-based childcare sector with
regard to how operators may be disadvantaged by the changes, particularly those
in regional WA?
(2) Will the
minister please detail her understanding of how operators are being impacted?
(3) In what
capacity is the state government working with the federal government to rectify
negative impacts experienced by some segments of the sector and what possible
solutions are being discussed?
(4) Is the state
government considering stepping in to provide direct support to providers
adversely impacted by those changes?
I thank the honourable member for
some notice of the question.
(1) Yes. The
Department of Communities is the lead agency for the early childhood education
and care sector under a national framework
of legislation and policy. Communities has been engaging with peak bodies and
directly with services to understand impacts and share information on emergency
funding announcements made by the commonwealth, as well as advise services on
regulatory options for modifying operations. Communities is regularly
contacting services to ascertain their status. The Minister for Community
Services is also engaging with and responding to the concerns of peak bodies,
individual businesses and parents as they seek information and clarification
during this difficult time.
(2) During the
initial stage of the COVID-19 crisis,
job losses and parental concerns saw many services experience withdrawals of
children, precipitating a fear of potential ongoing viability issues. Many
centre-based services have lower enrolment and attendance numbers than normal.
Family day care services advise that many
are still operating at largely normal levels or are experiencing increased
demand. The impacts of a slowing economy and unemployment on sector
viability are being addressed by the commonwealth,
which funds the sector. Early childhood education and care–specific
packages that integrate with the JobKeeper package have been announced
so that services with reduced enrolments can remain open with lower numbers. A
range of payments above and beyond the baseline are available to ensure that
those services with normal levels of attendance are not financially
(3) The Minister
for Community Services is regularly meeting with ministers from all
jurisdictions and the Australian government to develop nationally consistent
and considered responses to maintain the safety of children, support the ECEC
sector and provide services to essential workers and children during this
crisis. Communities staff are participating in weekly teleconferences and
emergency sessions with other jurisdictions and the Australian government to
inform their responses to the sector and develop advice, support and information.
(4) The McGowan
government has already announced a wide range of measures to support small to
medium businesses, including payroll tax relief and utility subsidies. As an
industry operating under national laws and funded through the Australian government,
the majority of financial support for services comes from that source. The ECEC
sector currently has access to more specific funding support, as well as
general business support, than other sectors.