Expert Opinion Panel
Jason Bryce – Business & Finance
**Update – free child care will be replaced with a subsidy from 12 July 2020**
Working mums can get free child care if …
Single mothers are among the one million Australian workers who can get free child care, for at least one month, starting from this Sunday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new additional program to pay 50% of the child care sector’s fees this morning. A child care centre can only get the funding if they stay open and do not charge fees.
To get free childcare there are a few pre-requisites.
Who gets free child care?
The new ‘free child care’ arrangement applies:
- From Monday 6 April and will be reviewed after one month.
- If your child was enrolled in care during the fortnight ending 2 March, even if you have taken them out of care.
- Anyone who is working now can qualify.
Scott Morrison said anyone who had a job was considered “essential” and that child care is “an essential service to keep all parents who still had jobs in the current economy in that work.”
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the program was designed to help keep kids in their normal existing centre, not force parents to find a new centre.
“We want to ensure your childcare centre will remain open, so that you know where you normally take your child to get cared, that that will be there for you, so you are not looking for a new centre.”
How to get free child care
If you have taken your child out of care since late February, get back in touch with your child care centre. If you have lost your job, or need child care to return to work, you can also qualify for this.
If your child is still in care, you will begin to get the free care from Monday.
If you just want to reserve your place at your child care centre for when you return to work, you could qualify for this scheme and you should call your centre.
“If you have terminated your enrolment since 17 February, then I encourage you to get back in contact with your centre and re-start your arrangements,” said Mr Tehan
“Re-starting your enrolment will not require you to send your child to child care and it certainly won’t require you to pay a gap fee.
“Re-starting your enrolment will, however, hold your place for that point in time when things start to normalise,” said Dan Tehan.
What about special needs children?
Dan Tehan said more funding is available to cover the costs associated with child care for emergency service workers and vulnerable children.
“We will make payments of higher amounts in exceptional circumstances, such as where greater funding is required to meet the needs of emergency workers or vulnerable children.”
This is not a scheme for people entering the workforce, or re-entering the workforce
This is not a scheme for people entering the workforce or re-entering the workforce. This scheme applies to parents who are working and had children in care before the coronavirus shutdown of much of the economy (and child care centres) began in early March.
You have to be using an approved child care provider and you must be the person who is responsible for paying the child care fees. Your child must be fully immunised and meet residency requirements.
What about Stay-at-Home mums?
It seems at this stage (from information available on the Services Australia website and from the Prime Minister’s media conference this morning) that free child care may not apply to parents staying at home. Unless they are at home as a result of Coronavirus or their employment is being affected by Coronavirus.
However this is a great opportunity to expand child care accessibility to stay-at-home mums and parents said Terese Edwards, CEO of the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children.
“This package will help support families during these difficult times.
“I understand the priority for the workforce f but I suspect there are now plenty of spare child care places that could be filled by children who don’t have a sibling or for other reasons could benefit from care,” said Terese Edwards.
“Given there is capacity in services to take extra children, they could play a role for children who could benefit emotionally and developmentally by attending care.
“Families are already under pressure due to self-isolation. Providing safe care for children at home could be a pragmatic way of providing some relief.”
The 24/7 National Coronavirus Health Information Line is 1800 020 080.
Jason is an expert business, finance and consumer issues journalist specialising in personal finance, debt, consumer issues and banking, Jason is now based in Melbourne and p worked for ABC TV, News Ltd and plenty of magazines and online publishers. You can keep up to date with the latest Centrelink news and information at Jason’s Facebook page, Centrelink News.
Jason is a proud single dad of three children who are all growing up fast. Follow Jason on Twitter @JasonBryce. Jason’s personal website is www.jasonbryce.com