WIMMERA childcare organisations say the federal government's childcare package leaves early education centres significantly disadvantaged.
On April 2 Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that parents will receive free childcare after declining numbers prompted the industry to call for more support from the government.
Under the plan, from April 6 the Government will pay 50 per cent of a business' hourly fee up to the existing hourly rate cap based on a point in time before parents started withdrawing their children in large numbers, and waive fees for parents. This will only apply to services that remain open and do not charge families.
Days before the package was announced Ararat Early Learning Childhood Centre director Kerri Turner wrote to both the state and federal governments about the struggling sector.
Once the package was announced, she welcomed it cautiously but upon further inspection Ms Turner said it would greatly disadvantage the centre.
"We are expected to run a centre on half of our total revenue from the government and cannot charge any gap fees," she said.
In other news:
"Due to our business taking over a 50 per cent loss we should qualify for the JobKeeper allowance to help pay our employees. The JobKeeper package is still yet to go through Parliament which happens this Wednesday.
"I am of the understanding that it will be one sum for each employee and we will need to top up payments for the higher wage earners or cut hours to meet the package being provided.
"We have drastically reduced some of our educator hours in anticipation of the JobKeeper package, slashing 20 hours from our higher qualified staff.
"All of our employees will have to go on JobKeeper. At this stage they are saying we will not see this money until May. In the meantime, we are expected to run a business on less than 50 per cent of our revenue and pay our educators.
'This is not a Child Care Relief Package for Early Childhood Centres, who have been providing care for children so parents can attend essential work.
"This is a relief package for our government."
Ms Turner is urging concerned parents and educators to sign a petition for urgent assistance.
Uniting Vic Tas chief executive Bronwyn Pike said the JobKeeper package would not be enough to save its early learning centres.
The organisation remains ineligible for the payment following a government announcement that it would apply a 15 per cent turnover test will apply for charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Uniting has centres in Horsham, Kaniva, Hopetoun, Warracknabeal, and Balmoral.
"We need the JobKeeper legislation to test the 15 per cent fall in revenue separately for individual service providers, such as early learning centres, within larger not-for-profit organisations," Ms Pike said.
"Early learning only makes up 14 per cent of the turnover of Uniting Vic Tas. We're being disadvantaged because we're a multi-service provider."
"We're one of the few remaining early learning providers not benefiting from JobKeeper. The package is not an adequate solution for the sector if it doesn't work for everyone.
"Not-for-profit providers like Uniting should get access to the funding the Government has put in place to keep childcare services open. We shouldn't be disadvantaged due to our organisational structure."
Ms Pike said Uniting' revenue from early learning centres had dropped dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Attendance at long day care has fallen by 36 per cent across our centres since the COVID-19 outbreak with one of our centres, recording a drop of 89 per cent," she said.
"Yet, this isn't enough to meet the JobKeeper test, which is applied to the whole organisation. So, even if we lose 100 per cent of our early learning revenue, we still won't qualify.
"Without access to JobKeeper we'll have no choice but to close some services, which would be the worst outcome for our hardworking staff and families who are relying on us during this extraordinary time."
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