January 12th, 2022

National action needed to support early learning as COVID-19 cases surge.


National action needed to support early learning as COVID-19 cases surge

12th January 2022 – The Thrive by Five campaign has called on the National Cabinet to implement additional support measures to keep early learning and childcare centres open, safe and supported as the sector faces a national workforce crisis.

Over 400 centres are closed with many more running at reduced capacity, in particular, in the COVID-hit eastern states. Those that are not closed must navigate inconsistent rules and surging COVID-19 exposure. A lack of national coordination has left educators, families and workplaces stranded.

Thrive by Five says urgent action is required to minimise the worst impacts of the latest COVID-19 surge. It is calling for:

  1. Clear guidelines and protocols for contact exposure, isolation requirements and for return to work or care after isolation.
  2. Free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for educators and families to minimise exposure at early learning centres.
  3. A 85 per cent subsidy guarantee to ensure educators can be paid, including those unable to work because of exposure.

Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said the unvaccinated children cohort of 0-5 must now be first priority in order to avoid long term impacts on children.

“Without a clear and consistent national plan for the early years and to keep centres open, educators, families and businesses already struggling with a disrupted workforce will suffer,” Mr Weatherill said.

“We need services supported to operate safely with clear guidance and adequate financial support. Children under five remain the only cohort of Australians unable to access a vaccine and we owe it to those children to ensure their education and care is supported and safe.

“These straightforward asks for tests, protocols and income support are needed to stop this workforce crisis from spiralling out of control. There is no reason the Federal Government and National Cabinet cannot agree to these at their next meeting this week.

“Educators, families and children are feeling this crisis right now and there will be long term impacts if we don’t act. Every day that we have a disrupted workforce is a disruption to our children, families and the businesses they work in.

“The sad reality is that children who start school behind, rarely catch up. We urge the Federal Government and National Cabinet to make the early years a priority at this week’s meeting.

“This is a further reminder that the current early learning and childcare system is not fit for purpose and unable to respond to the challenges it has faced over the last two years – urgent reform of our early years system is crucial.”