With families across the world suddenly left without childcare, Australia's announcement that it will be providing free childcare will come as a welcome relief.
Australia has announced that it will provide free childcare for thousands of families in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The government wants 13,000 childcare facilities to stay open, so that parents who are still working can rely on their usual childcare arrangements. Essential workers will be given priority, but they will be available to all workers.
50% of existing childcare fees will be paid to families, and childcare facilities are to stay open, and not charge families for care. They must also seek to contact families whose children have stopped attending in recent weeks so they are aware of the option to rejoin. Education Minister Dan Tehan explained, "The hope is that now all parents who need will get the care they want and those who have sought to disengage from the childcare sector will re-engage with the sector."
Parents who have continued to pay fees will have the waived fees backdated to March 23. An already implemented pandemic policy covers the wages of childcare staff, which Tehan notes is around 60% of most facilities costs.
Tehan clarified that the policy would apply to all parents, whether they are working on the frontline, from home, or not at all, as long as they required childcare. "If parents have an existing relationship with the 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 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 and helping us deal with the pandemic."
The coronavirus pandemic has left families across the world finding themselves having to try and balance working, often from home, while also caring for their children. In Ireland, as in many places, parents have described the struggles of trying to do what amounts to two full-time jobs at once.
This announcement will undoubtedly be a relief for many Australian families, and a welcome return to routine for children.
Featured image: Shitota Yuri via Unsplash
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