Free early childhood education for working parents: your questions answered

One million Australian families will receive free early childhood education and care as part of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

You heard right, folks! Free childcare. What would have been unfathomable a few months ago is now reality for Australian working families. 

With thousands of early childhood education and care centres on the brink of collapse due to highly unpredictable enrolment and attendance, the Morrison Government will be injecting $1.6 billion dollars into the sector over three months from 6 April 2020 with the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package.

This will enable early childhood education and care centres to keep their doors open during this period of uncertainty, ensure support is there for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families, and make it easier for workers in essential jobs to keep working. 

Will early childhood education and care be free for parents even if we are working from home?

Minister for Education Dan Tehan told ABC News, “If parents have an existing relationship with a childcare centre and their child is attending that centre and they’re working from home, yes, they will get free childcare.

“We want as many people being able to work as we possibly can,” he said, “and we want them to be able to access childcare as they need to make sure that their children are being looked after while they’re working.” This includes parents who are looking for work or studying.

What if I’ve already pulled my child out as a result of the pandemic?

Working parents who have recently taken their children out of childcare are urged to re-enrol.

“If you have terminated your enrolment since 17 February, then I encourage you to get back in contact with your centre and re-start your arrangements,” said Mr Tehan. “Re-starting your enrolment will not require you to send your child to childcare and it certainly won’t require you to pay a gap fee. Re-starting your enrolment will, however, hold your place for that point in time when things start to normalise, and you are ready to take your child back to their centre.”

Will I receive free early childhood education and care if I keep my child home?

If you are currently sending your child to early childhood education or care, you will be able to do so for free for the next three months. But if you decide to keep them home during the pandemic, you can do so without giving up their place in an early childhood education or care centre.

My children were previously cared for by grandparents who are self-isolating and unable to provide care. How can I continue to work?

Free early childhood education and care is available to all working parents, so families are encouraged to seek a place. “There has to be room available at a centre for you to be able to access it,” said Mr Tehan.

“Preference is being given to those who are currently working and using childcare, for those children who are vulnerable and those who already have enrolments, but where we can help and assist others who now need childcare to help us fight the pandemic, then we will be doing what we can to try and find places for those families,” said Mr Tehan.

The Department of Education will be putting in place an early childhood education and care finder apparatus to assist those families.

What should we do if the early childhood education and care centre we use has closed?

It is the government’s hope that this relief package will incentivise centres that have already closed their doors to reopen. Get in touch with the centre directly, or seek an alternative place.

Can I increase the number of days my child attends, and receive free care on those days?

If there is availability for you to increase care, and you can come to an arrangement with the centre, early childhood education and care will be free during the pandemic.

What types of early childhood education and care does this apply to?

Any early childhood education or care service subsidised by the government will be free during the pandemic. This includes centre based day care (long day care and occasional care), family day care, outside school hours care (before, after, and vacation care) and in-home care.

Is it safe to send my kids?

The Australian federal government is taking the advice of the medical expert panel whose message has consistently been that school and childcare in Australia are safe for our kids. State premiers are encouraging parents to keep children home. We recommend you keep up-to-date with the latest government announcements.

Could free early childhood education and care become a permanent arrangement?

The temporary system will remain in place until 30 June 2020. It will be reviewed after one month, and an extension of a further three months will be considered. Currently, the government is hoping that the old system will be reintroduced after six months.

“For the next six months while we’re dealing with this pandemic, we want those workers who are out there helping us get through this pandemic to be able to get the support that they need through free childcare,” said Mr Tehan.

Written by the Circle In team.

ABC News
Ministers’ Media Release

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