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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 345 asked in the Legislative Council on 16 April 2020 by Hon Jacqui Boydell

Minister responding: Hon S.F. McGurk
Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on

CORONAVIRUS — 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?

Hon SUE ELLERY replied:

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 disadvantaged.

(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.