Australia’s largest childcare provider is warning it will need help if it is to keep centres open throughout the coronavirus crisis and beyond.
Goodstart Early Learning runs 665 childcare centres around the country, employing 16,000 people.
But with parents pulling children out of care in droves – whether because they’ve lost their own jobs and can no longer afford the fees or out of health concerns – it has had to tell its 3000 casual workers last week that it couldn’t keep them on.
“Many of them are extremely distressed and looking for assurances that we will be able to provide assistance through the JobKeeper scheme,” chief executive Julia Davison told AAP.
Goodstart, a not-for-profit organisation, is seeking urgent advice from the federal government as to whether it will be eligible for that wage subsidy scheme, she said.
Under the rules, businesses with a turnover of more than $1 billion like Goodstart have to show they’ve lost half or more of their income before they can get the $1500 fortnightly payment for their workers.
Smaller businesses can receive the payment after their turnover drops by 30 per cent.
The United Workers Union, which covers childcare workers, says it would be a perverse outcome if Goodstart had to be essentially driven to the wall before getting government support.
Across the sector, centres are calling for the government to also keep paying the childcare subsidy, which is already on the budget, without forcing them to charge parents gap fees.
That would allow parents to keep children enrolled in child care and, combined with the JobSeeker payment, help keep centres afloat until the twin health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pass.
Ms Davison said Goodstart was no different in urgently needing this double shot of help.
“Staying open during the crisis for the children of essential services workers and families in vulnerable circumstances is vital,” she said.
“When the COVID-19 crisis is past, we will be an integral part of the rebuilding of the nation.”
The national cabinet of the prime minister and state leaders is expected to discuss child care when it next meets on Friday.