Childcare facilities fear the Federal Government’s free childcare package could force them out of work. Photo: iStock
Childcare facilities fear the Federal Government’s free childcare package could force them out of work. Photo: iStock

Meet the essential workers our community will lose

ESSENTIAL workers around the Clarence Valley hold grave concerns for the community should childcare continue to be free.

Last week the Australian government announced a free childcare package for all working parents. However, this free service comes at the cost of a 50 per cent pay cut for early childhood facilities and zero income for some sole traders which the industry fears will lead to multiple facilities closing.

If that happens, parents around the Clarence Valley may be forced to stay home and care for their children resulting in the breakdown of essential services for the region.

Registered nurse and mum of two girls Haley Hodgson is one of many essential workers in the area who rely on Clarence Family Day Care educator Alison Barrett.

“Due to COVID-19 I have had to extend my hours at work to help support the local community,” she said.

“I am completely dependent on Alison for care (and) if she is unable to work, I will be unable to work as I have no other options available locally.”

Alison Marshall also faces giving up her job at Maclean District Hospital if Ms Barrett is unable to care for her two children.

“I have been asked to increase my hours of work to 32 hours per week. In order to do this, I require care for my children for these hours of work,” she said.

“Prior to the COVID-19 my parents provided care for my children outside of school/preschool hours. However, my parents are no longer able to provide this care as they are over 70, and as per the government recommendation, they are in isolation.”

Kate Wells, who also risks losing her full-time position with the NSW Bushfire Recovery Team if Ms Barrett closes, said she was disgusted by the government’s treatment of childcare educators.

“How can I expect Alison to have my son for 40 hours a week and get paid for four hours total?” Ms Wells said.

“I am a full-time worker that can afford to pay for my childcare. Our home carers are also essential and if they don’t work then we don’t work.”

Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the package was in response to Australia’s child care centres seeing a significant reduction in enrolments.

“This threatened their ability to provide care,” he said.

“Under the new plan, the Government will pay 50 per cent of the sector’s fee revenue and provide a $1500 fortnightly wage subsidy.

If educators require additional support, they can apply for further funding amounts via the exceptional circumstances process. This will open on Thursday 9 April on the dese.gov.au website.”



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