“It also provides certainty to families that they will retain their enrolment at the child care service.
“Waiving the parents’ gap fees will also ensure child care services maintain their enrolments and continue to be paid the CCS, even if a child is absent for a COVID-related reason.
“Our government wants to ensure that child care services remain open for workers and vulnerable families who need those services.”
Victorian childcare centres had warned their enrolments could collapse because of the renewed COVID-19 lockdown, and the end of the childcare sector relief package on July 12.
The relief package, which made care free for parents, will then revert to the old demand-driven system that relies on government subsidies and fees from families. Demand for services has recovered across the country as the economy reopened and schools resumed face-to-face teaching.
But the coronavirus outbreak in Victoria – triggering a six-week lockdown and resumption of remote learning by schools – has already caused attendance at childcare services to drop.
Paul Mondo, president of the Australian Childcare Alliance and operator of a daycare centre in Airport West, said attendance with closely tied to the status of schools and the move to remote learning would have an impact.
“I think one of the things we take confidence from is that the government responded to the needs of the sector earlier this year and we continue to engage with them on the need for adequate localised support for Victorian families as we transition into the childcare subsidy,” he said.
Mr Mondo said attendance at some services in Melbourne had dropped 30 per cent this week and the sector was waiting to see if the declines worsened and hit enrolments.
“We haven’t yet had a number of what that complete withdrawal number of enrolments is. That is the number to really to understand the impact of this,” he said.
Mr Tehan said from Monday, services can access the $708 million transition payment fund to support the return to the old funding system. The transition payment replaces the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which the sector loses from July 20.
Under the shift back to the old funding system, the work activity test for parents will also be eased until October 4 to help them afford services. Eligible families who have lost income will get 100 hours of subsidised care a fortnight.
Early Learning and Care Council of Australia chief executive Elizabeth Death said the renewed restrictions in Victorian suburbs and towns were “simulating the impacts” of the coronavirus crisis felt by the sector in March, when enrolments plummeted.
“ELACCA is in close consultation with the Government and is providing feedback on current experiences including attendance figures and family behaviours,” Ms Death said.
“We are working with government to ensure any mechanisms at their disposal are initiated to support children’s early learning, affordability for families and the sector’s viability.”
Following the major drop in enrolments earlier this year, the government’s relief package was designed to stabilise the sector by providing services with half their ordinary government funding on top of JobKeeper wage subsidy payments.
The localised stage three restrictions affect metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, which takes in towns including Broadford, Kilmore, Seymour, Tallarook, Pyalong and Wallan.
School holidays will be extended by a week in preparation for an undetermined period of distance learning.
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.