Thursday, 8 October 2020
Child care is a serious issue, and it is one that has got media attention not just in the last 24 hours but during this entire pandemic. We have seen in Victoria, because of the COVID-19 health crisis, our child care centres close. We have seen in Victoria, because of the COVID-19 health crisis, a drop in the number of children attending early learning. In some of the centres in my part of the world, attendance has dropped by anywhere from 10 per cent to a third.
The first question that comes to mind is the impact on those children and their learning. Early childhood education, we know, matters. It creates the foundations for our littlest Australians in ensuring that they're ready to learn, particularly as they turn three and four. But it's also had a huge impact on the workers in this sector, and, as you know, the majority of the people—in fact, over 95 per cent of the people—working in the early childhood education sector are women.
I recently met with some early childhood educators from my electorate, and these were some of their experiences that they've raised throughout this pandemic. Unfortunately, casual workers who've not been eligible for JobKeeper have not been working. They were the first to go. Many of them are at home and on JobSeeker. And, since the recent cuts to JobSeeker and the JobSeeker supplement, they're doing it tough. Liz, from Great Beginnings Epsom, raised that there were concerns about the vulnerability of staff because of the lack of PPE. They said that at their centre they hadn't actually increased or paid for extra cleaning to ensure that they were COVID safe. How can you be in the middle of a crisis, have children still attending early learning centres, still be in a situation where we've got outbreaks in Victoria and not have increased the cleaning? It was still the standard that they get. Like aged care, child care is a federal government responsibility. There have been no guidelines for childcare centres as to what should be the COVID-safe cleaning plan. Sally, who's at a community based centre in child care, said at one stage attendance dropped to a third. There was no governing body or rules about the regulation of health and safety, therefore lines became blurred. Whilst they were able to work closely with their parents and educators, the centre did feel abandoned by the federal government. These are just a few of the statements that have come from the sector. The government continues to forget that they are responsible for early childhood education and child care.