Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced childcare will be free so parents can continue working during the COVID-19 pandemic, a move welcomed by the National Catholic Education Commission. Source: ABC News.
By Conor Duffy, Lucy Kent and Brad Ryan, ABC News
The Federal Government will spend an estimated $1.6 billion to fund the radical — but temporary — overhaul of the struggling sector, which has been pleading for a bailout as parents pull kids out of care.
Mr Morrison said free child care would be offered so essential workers could keep going to work, but Education Minister Dan Tehan later clarified all parents would qualify — including students and the unemployed.
"We want as many people being able to work as we possibly can, and we want them to be able to access child care as they need," he told the ABC's Afternoon Briefing program.
Under the plan, the Government will pay half of the operating costs of Australia's 13,000 childcare and early learning centres.
The announcement comes after the sector warned plummeting attendance rates meant it was facing a crisis like never before, because of a massive hit to both of its income streams. Many centres have already closed.
The change is temporary. The Government says the new system will be reviewed after one month, and an extension will be considered after three months.
Mr Tehan said priority would be given to working parents, pre-existing enrolments, and vulnerable and disadvantaged children in particular need of early education.
In a statement, the National Catholic Education Commission executive director Jacinta Collins said the announcement would bring great relief to Catholic early childhood and care services across Australia.
“The Catholic education sector operates about 250 preschools and early learning centres educating nearly 5,000 children, as well offering before and after school care and vacation care to families at many Catholic primary schools across Australia,” Ms Collins said.
“The Government’s rescue package will enable those services to keep their doors open for essential services workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m sure this announcement will bring great relief to operators and staff of these services, and to the families who need to utilise early learning and childcare over the coming months,” she said.