Under fives, educators miss out on crucial support needed for safer start to early learning year
20 January 2022 – Plans announced today by National Cabinet have overlooked the urgent support needed to help protect children aged under five, educators and early learning centres by providing appropriate protections against the Omicron wave.
There are currently 323 childcare centres closed across Australia, with many more running at reduced capacity and fears of a further surge as early learning and other schools open up next week/in coming weeks.
Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said, “We will have chaos in early learning classrooms and more centre closures unless the Federal Government provides more certainty and support to protect children and keep early learning open in a safe and responsible way.
“Despite children under five remaining the only cohort of Australians unable to access a vaccine, this plan falls short of what’s needed to protect them in an education and care setting.
“The National Cabinet meeting today has failed to result in greater surety for parents, educators or the early learning sector.
“Early learning centres that are not closed already have been abandoned to navigate inconsistent rules, surging Omicron exposure and staff furloughing.
“Parents are confused and under pressure, and many will be left no choice but to take leave if their local centre is closed or operating at reduced capacity. This will leave workforce gaps for business and the economy, especially in sectors that are already stretched or on the frontline.
“Thrive by Five calls for urgent government action before the start of next week to minimise the worst impacts of the Omicron surge, including:
- Clear guidelines and protocols for contact exposure, isolation requirements and for return to work or care after isolation.
- Free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for educators and families to minimise exposure at early learning centres.
- An 85 per cent subsidy guarantee to ensure educators can be paid, including those unable to work because of exposure.
“These straightforward asks for tests, protocols and income support are needed immediately to help stop this health and workforce crisis from spiralling out of control,” he said.