Early Childhood COVID-19 updates for early childhood members

The coronavirus continues to hang around (image: iStock)

On 2 August, stage 4 restrictions were put in place for Metro Melbourne and stage 3 for regional and rural Victoria. Early childhood professionals continue to be deemed essential workers, and it is believed to be low risk for kindergarten services to be open for all children in regional and rural areas and for vulnerable children and those of permitted workers in Metro Melbourne.

We are continuing to have regular meetings with the Department of Education and Training and the Minister for Education’s Office to raise issues on members’ behalf. Our approach to all discussions has continued to be focused on the health and safety of our members and the work and workload implications of the arrangements being put in place.

The Andrews government has announced that 100% of funding will again be provided for all funded kindergarten programs, which means EC professionals can remained employed, parents are able to keep their children enrolled in kindergarten programs, and services can remain financially viable. Providers accessing JobKeeper are not eligible for 100% funding, but can choose to cease JobKeeper and instead opt for full funding. However, once they come off JobKeeper, they are unable to apply again.

Funding in childcare
Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan has announced that all Victorian families will receive an extra 30 allowable absences on top of the 42 days already allocated.The federal government is allowing providers to waive the fee gap. However, they cannot compel providers do so. Waiving the gap fee would enable many families to keep their children enrolled. Melbourne providers will receive a 5% top-up on the current transition package. The aim of the package is to keep services open and financially viable, as well as guaranteeing to keep teachers and educators employed.

Employment Guarantee
The Employment Guarantee reflects the Department of Education and Training’s expectation that services will look after their educators and their staff, both permanent and casual. As the Transition Payment is paid in lieu of JobKeeper, it should be used to support educators and employees, and passed on through wages and payments.The department considers standing down permanent staff without pay as inconsistent with the Employment Guarantee.

If your employer tries to reduce your hours, asks you to sign a new contract of employment, or tries to make any changes to your wages and/or conditions do not agree to anything and do not sign anything until you have contacted our Member Support Centre. You must be consulted first and we will provide you with the support required.

Any changes your employer is seeking must be received in writing. Respond with: “I look forward to discussing this with you and I have also contacted my union”. This will slow down the process and give you time to seek advice from the AEU.

A dedicated and specialised team has been established in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to provide end-to-end support for services affected by a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case. If DHHS instructs your service to close, you need to notify DET and WorkSafe. DET will work with the provider and staff, offering support, information and resources. You will also be issued a letter with information and links to closure packs.

Cleaning grants
Additional funding will be available for services across Victoria that are required to close and undertake an infectious clean as a result of a confirmed case of COVID-19. This is on top of the cleaning and hygiene grants that have been provided to all funded kindergarten services, that we successfully campaigned for.

Child care and kindergarten permits
Only children of permitted workers and vulnerable kids will be able to access on-site childcare and kinder. Permitted workers are able to access on-site childcare and kinder if there is no-one else in their household who is able to supervise children. If there is another carer in the household, permitted workers can still access on-site childcare if the other parent/carer cannot supervise children for a set number of reasons. Both carers do not have to be permitted workers to access childcare – however, DET is asking that Victorians only access childcare and kinder services if they have to.

Vulnerable children
If you have vulnerable children attending your service, please write a letter to their families, stating that their child is permitted to attend kinder or childcare. Evidence is not required for vulnerable children and families to attend an early childhood service.

Learning from home
DET and Early Childhood Australia are hosting free masterclasses for the profession as you support children to continue their learning from home. Sessions have been designed to present practical strategies and a range of online tools to enable rich learning for your children while they are engaging in learning from home. The DET Learning from Home website also has some great online resources, including a previous series of free webinars.

Funding to support learning from home
Services that are not yet receiving School Readiness Funding (SRF) will be provided with additional funding to support them in the delivery of learning from home for their families. Services receiving SRF can continue to spend up to $5,000 or up to 25% of their total SRF allocation to support home learning.

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