HIT HARD: Noel's family daycare in Roma is one of the centres that will be “crippled” with the free childcare package.
HIT HARD: Noel's family daycare in Roma is one of the centres that will be “crippled” with the free childcare package.

‘It’s crippling us:’ Family daycare hit hard by free childcare

“One size doesn’t fit all.”

Those are the cries from Noelene Welk, and the other regional daycentres that will could now cripple when the Prime Minister announced free childcare would be on offer for children of essential workers.

Ms Welk who owns Noel’s family daycare in Roma said the blanket funding of early childhood education and care relief package (CRP) could kill family day care in Australia.

She said while long daycare centres and child care centres have been forced to close because of loss of care, family day care operators have remained open due to the small ratios and flexibility.

“The government funding hasn’t considered how family day care operates, only taking into consideration the well-funded corporate child care centre models while ignoring the pivotal model of family day care,” she said.

“While the family day care industry has experienced its fair share of absences, withdrawals and closures, the past fortnight has seen a spike in efficiency with higher volume of children in care in some areas, within the operators who are continuing to operate.”

While at first glance the government’s pledge to pay 50 per cent of a centre’s revenue based on early March enrolments will provide sufficient support for many centres, Ms Welk says it means family day cares will now be working at half of their normal wages.

“It might stop the bigger centres from going bust but it’s crippling the rest of us,” she said.

“When you look at it, family daycare centres will be getting half pay until May, and only then we can apply for JobKeeper and that’s assuming we’re eligible.

“We’re worse off then what we were. The government are just destroying viable businesses.”

While the Independent Education Union of Australia noted that some services can access the JobKeeper scheme once their revenue falls by 30 per cent or more, the nation’s biggest non-profit provider, Goodstart, is not eligible, as its revenue tips just over $1 billion.

Ms Welk currently works after hours and on weekends to ensure there are tailored packages for the children of essential workers in our community.

While daycare centres welcome that the government has highlighted the essential role of early childhood education during a pandemic to keep essential workers in the workforce, Ms Welk said the funding and legislation is lacking the detail and sophistication that the sector demands.

“Scott Morrison has now made me vulnerable. I still have to put in ten hour days and after children go, clean and disinfect more rigorously then before, plus do all the documentation that is required by law,” she said.

With the Government now promoting “free child care”, it is expected our hours of care will increase, in that case are our Educators expected to work for nothing?”

Ms Welk said herself and the numerous other family day cares in the region and across Australia are now in limbo, and are reaching out to their local Members to request that the current package is amended.

“None of us want to close,” she said.

“We want to keep supporting families and keep our livelihoods that we’ve worked so hard for.”