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‘I’m worried every time I go there’: Families paying to keep kids at home from childcare

Sarah Du faces a predicament shared by many families across Sydney – whether to send her daughter to daycare despite the stay-at-home orders and the burgeoning COVID-19 outbreak or to keep her home and pay childcare fees for nothing.

The federal government has allowed childcare centres to waive the gap payment charged to parents and still collect childcare subsidy, but it is not directly funding this fee relief, nor has it made it mandatory.

Software company OWNA has found that of 200 childcare services that use its billing system across Sydney, 131 are not waiving the gap for parents who keep their children at home. Of the 69 waiving the gap, most are offering only partial relief while 5 per cent are fully waiving fees.

Sarah Du with her children Taylor, Skylar and Riley at their Northmead home.

Sarah Du with her children Taylor, Skylar and Riley at their Northmead home.Credit:Louise Kennerly

Georgina Dent, the executive director of The Parenthood, said many families had the false impression that waiving the gap fee meant the government was stepping up.

“The government is not actually putting its hand into its pocket at all, it’s just telling providers that they can waive the gap fee,” Ms Dent said. “Ultimately, that is a cost that they have to absorb themselves and it’s not sustainable for lots of providers.”

Belinda Smith, the manager of Advanced Early Learning Childcare Centre in Merrylands, said she had chosen to waive the gap fee for families who were keeping their children at home but this was costing the centre $12,000 a week.

“We won’t be able to sustain it in the long run and if it does continue, we may lose our staff and we may not be able to keep going,” Ms Smith said.

Ms Du, from Northmead, has opted to send her youngest daughter Riley, 3, to daycare while she and her husband work and the older two school-aged children attend school remotely.

“I’m worried every time I go there, but I’m doing it for her,” Ms Du said. “She’s getting entertained, she’s getting taught, and she’s getting educated as opposed to just being at home and not being given any attention whatsoever because of working parents.”

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