Thursday , September 16 2021
Home / National News / Kerry Chant asks too much of parents with young children

Kerry Chant asks too much of parents with young children

Eight weeks into Sydney’s lockdown and with no end in sight, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant reiterated that parents should not send their children to childcare unless they absolutely have to. This time, however, she clarified that “just working from home, that wouldn’t be, in my mind, a reason to do it”.

Surely, these difficult and dangerous times call on us all to do what we can to help. But what Chant is asking parents to do is, for many, simply not possible. It is not possible to maintain satisfactory job performance while simultaneously caring for infant children. Particularly if there is more than one infant child.

Deeply concerned: Dr Kerry Chant at Wednesday’s briefing.

Deeply concerned: Dr Kerry Chant at Wednesday’s briefing. Credit:James Brickwood

We are talking about children who cannot toilet, dress, feed, or entertain themselves. Children with little concept of safety or danger. There is no possibility of using a quiet 20 minutes to give a presentation, or write a complex report, or have a difficult or delicate phone conversation – every parent of an infant knows that quiet is not good. If your two-year-old is quiet for 20 minutes you don’t get work done, you find a fire extinguisher.

It may be possible for some dual-income families to work from home with their small children for a little while, but the government is foreshadowing at least another couple of months of lockdown. The only solution for many families in that case will be for one parent to take leave from their paid employment to look after the children. And, given the extended period of lockdown that seems almost certain, much of that leave will need to be unpaid, meaning those families will have to lose income and some may have to lose their jobs altogether.

Last month the federal government announced it would allow Early Education and Care providers in Greater Sydney to waive the gap fee for parents who keep their children home during the lockdown. This means parents who keep their children home won’t have to pay childcare fees, but only if their childcare provider opts in to the scheme. Many providers have not. That’s not because they’re greedy or don’t want to support their families, but because the federal government announcement did not come with any extra funding for centres.

The gap fee is the difference between the amount the government contributes through the Child Care Subsidy and the actual daily fee the centre charges. But the subsidy is on a sliding scale based on family income and activity. That means the government pays most of the daily fee for some children, but none of the daily fee for other children. In light of the announcement, centres have to weigh up whether they can survive on the subsidy alone, particularly if the children on their books don’t attract much subsidy.

Childcare costs up to $200 a day in Sydney.

Childcare costs up to $200 a day in Sydney.Credit:Louise Kennerley

This means many families will still be paying full fees for childcare even if they keep their children home, as Chant has requested. And with fees in Sydney as high as $200 per child per day, it is unacceptable to ask families to keep paying for care while also expecting them to take unpaid leave from work to properly look after their infants.

It is also not acceptable to ask childcare providers and educators to put their health on the line every day. Early Education and Care educators must be prioritised for vaccination statewide. Childcare centres are increasingly being flagged as exposure sites, and there is simply no such thing as social distancing with two-year-olds.

About admin

Check Also

All clear in the name games

Given that we are in the advanced stages of lockdown fatigue it was to be …