This is what our childcare centres need to remain open

This is what our childcare centres need to remain open

Childcare centres (more correctly called education and care centres), have been told they have to remain open through the COVID-19 crisis.

Most are happy to because they understand that their role is vital in allowing essential service workers like health workers, retail workers, truck drivers, government officials and every other worker that can’t just work from home, to carry on.

But, the lack of a clear plan to support them, is testing that resolve and will eventually cause the closure of many centres. This is what’s needed.

Childcare centres need to be told how to beef up their infection control procedures.

How about we try a master infection control plan for these services issued by the Department of Health? Childcare centres are pretty good with infection control – following principles established by the National Health and Medical Research Council in the book that is close to a bible for centres “Staying healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services”. But we now have every centre in the country developing their own additional procedures with only scant guidance from any official source. This will not end well.

Parents need to be reassured.

Parents are told the official reasons why childcare centres need to remain open but they would be a lot more convinced if they got communication directly from the Department of Education or Services Australia.  Parents are pulling their children out in droves because they are scared. Reassure the parents and this may stop.

Isn’t it better if some parents don’t send their children – won’t this help to flatten the curve? This is unknown at this stage but we need to back the official Governmental line that it is necessary for our centres to open.

Whether we like it or not the majority of our long day care centres are small businesses. What happens when half of the parents using these pull their children out? These businesses go under and will be forced to close rapidly.

Legislation to support services is supposed to be going through Parliament today but it will not be enough.  Parents are choosing not just to keep their children at home, but to unenrol them. If these centres fall over, then there is nobody left to care for the children that will always need care. Like the children of doctors.

The Government has made emergency funding available to assist services the amount allocated to this fund so far is a pittance – $14 million.

And speaking of being reassured, parents are a lot more reassured when they see hand sanitiser and increased surface cleaning happening in centres. But our centres can’t get these basic supplies (and many are also struggling with food to feed children with). So a plan has to be put into place to supply centres with the products they need for infection control.

Staff wages need to be guaranteed.

Early childhood educators are amongst the lowest paid workers in Australia. Early childhood teachers don’t get much more. They use up their sick leave because normally babies and children are very efficient germ carriers. If the country needs educators and teachers and the support staff like cooks and cleaners to keep fronting up to work then they need to reassure them they will still have an income if they contract COVID-19 or their service is closed.  While the debate about school closures continues, no school teacher is worried that if their school is ordered to close, their wages will disappear. Take this fear away from the educators and teachers working with our youngest children.

Services need some leadership.

The Federal and State and Territory Governments have been doing some webinars here and there and some sates (looking at you Victoria) are doing good communications to services.

The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education wrote and thanked services and educators the other day. But it would be really good if the Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, popped his head up occasionally.

Whenever anything is said about childcare by the Government or Scott Morrison the talk is about the lack of a risk to children and babies. Every educator and early childhood teacher is left sobbing in a corner asking “What about me?” Teachers and educators are never mentioned. And let’s not forget social distancing isn’t really possible in a room of babies and toddlers!

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