Debbie Matthews and Tracey Coombes at the Kallahra Child Care Centre
Debbie Matthews and Tracey Coombes at the Kallahra Child Care Centre

Childcare workers blindsided by zero-cost scheme

BEFORE Prime Minister Scott Morrison had even finished his announcement regarding his Government’s free childcare scheme last Thursday, owner of Kallahra Child Care Centre Julie Watts was already being bombarded with calls from parents.

“We had parents asking for details and lining up for refunds before we had even digested the news,” she said.

Like many others, Ms Watts and her team were completely blindsided by the announcement.

Although it will provide many families with enormous relief, the reality is childcare centres like Kallahra are looking at a huge loss.

The $1.6 billion plan aims to keep parents at work and childcare workers employed. Education Minister Dan Tehan said centres would be paid 50 per cent of their normal income in conjunction with JobKeeper payments.

“The way it will work is that we will look at what 50 per cent of the fees up to the rate cap were in the fortnight ­before March 2 and we will pay you that amount on a fortnightly basis,” he said.

“We will also make sure that it is calibrated with JobKeeper.

Now 60 per cent of the cost of a childcare centre are the wages, so with this payment we will be helping the sector to the tune of $1.6 billion.”

Although this plan looks watertight on paper, the JobKeeper payments are not due to come through until the first week of May. For Ms Watts, this presents a huge problem.

“I understand JobKeeper will come but it won’t come in time,” she said.

“I still have three lots of pay to get through at only half the revenue I was getting.”

Ms Watts said she and her business partner would be able to pay their staff by dipping into their own bank accounts, but not everyone was able to do so.

“We will actually physically have to take money from our bank accounts to pay our workers, that’s the reality of it,” she said.

“But I do know of centres, I have a girlfriend who owns a service and she had to stand down 11 staff on Saturday night.

“She’ll work the floor and she’ll cope but she’ll ask parents to bring their own nappies and food from now on, just while we’re in this mess because she actually can’t afford them.”

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry expressed appreciation for child care providers during this time and encourgaed anyone struggling to reach out.

“If a service has questions or concerns about how the new system will impact their business, please send me an email or call my office and we will work with them through their payments under the Early Childhood Education and and Care Relief Package and the JobKeeper package, alongside the Department of Education,” she said.

“Exceptional circumstances funding is also available.”



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