Dear friends and supporters,
So Melbourne is now in Lock Down 5.0 and Greater Sydney is in the middle of at least 5 weeks in lock down thanks to the Delta strain of Covid19. It comes just weeks after almost every state and territory had some form of lock down imposed. Seems like 2021 is really keen not to be outdone by 2020 in terms of causing havoc, hey?
For parents of school-aged children these lockdowns mean a return to homeschool but more broadly it means a return to the unwelcome uncertainty and stress that any lock down presents. Income loss. Routine disruption. Business closures. Cancelled plans. Fear. Isolation.
It is really difficult and we know that the mental health and wellbeing of parents and children has already been stretched. There is mental health support available so please do reach out for help if you or anyone in your household or family is struggling.
On Thursday the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Education Minister Alan Tudge announced that the early childhood education and care gap fee could be waived for parents in the locked down areas of Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, should parents keep their children home. The changes are expected to help about 216,000 families across 3600 centres.
For parents this is good news in that it provides some certainty and support in very uncertain times. Waiving the gap fee doesn’t cost the Federal government a cent but it means parents aren’t forced to pay for a service they’re not able to access. For educators and early learning services, however, this is tricky because they're required to absorb the shortfall. Assistance from the Federal government for educators and services is needed in conjunction with the waiver.
The fee waiver will apply to areas currently under lockdown orders and will be available from Monday, July 19. However, the measure is opt-in, so early learning centres will have to choose to participate and it’s best to check with staff or management of your centre.
Families experiencing a loss of income, such as casual workers or those in self-isolation, can also seek support through the Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship).
This week the NSW state government announced that the vaccination of teachers in Covid-affected areas would be prioritised. This is fantastic as we know that teachers and educators are on the front line. It was very disappointing that early educators weren't included.
Early childhood educators have been looking after our children throughout the pandemic and putting themselves at a very high risk. They are on the frontline day by day doing one of the most important jobs - that cannot be done from the safety of their homes. We're calling on state and federal governments to act and make sure that early childhood educators get high priority access to vaccines as soon as possible!
And speaking of safety in schools, we signed a letter this week to Dr Kerry Chant, the Chief Health Officer in NSW, urging the state government not to proceed with planned cuts to cleaning hours in 480 NSW public schools.
NSW is currently in the midst of an outbreak of a highly contagious strand of the virus. We need to do everything we can to reduce the risk of spread, and keep teachers, students and school staff safe. Cleaners are struggling to keep children and teaching staff safe. It is unacceptable to ignore that concern and place cleaners, children and teaching staff at risk by reducing cleaning hours and failing to provide the resources they need.
Cutting cleaning hours in a pandemic is madness!
I know words can't make this better but please know that we are thinking of everyone affected by the pandemic right now. Whether you're a teacher back in the remote-learning trenches; a parent trying to work and homeschool and keep your children fed and watered and entertained; a grandparent living in a different state to your children or grandchildren; an early educator arriving at work terrified of contracting this virus; a business owner staring down the barrel of yet another lockdown wondering how you'll provide for your family. This pandemic is affecting so many of us in so many difficult ways. We see you. And we are hoping with every day that passes that the situation will ease.