Bindarra Daycare director Olivia Vollbrecht with son Ari. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Bindarra Daycare director Olivia Vollbrecht with son Ari. Picture: Cordell Richardson

What is next for kindies, families as free child care ends

CHILD care centres which were given a lifeline by the Federal Government during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic say they are wary about what is to come next when assistance is cut off.

Bindarra Daycare director Olivia Vollbrecht cried tears of joy when Scott Morrison announced financial measures to protect the sector, with fears families were about to pull their children out at dramatic rates.

Free child care has ended as of today, with parents going back to paying the gap of a partial subsidy from the government.

It is a move criticised by childcare advocates, unions and women's work rights advocates, who say working women will be disadvantaged by the move.

A transition package expires in September.

From July 20, childcare workers will be the first employees cut from the JobKeeper scheme.

Mrs Vollbrecht said her Booval service was one of the lucky ones and she was positive about the future.

"The transition payment is 50 per cent of what we were receiving prior with the relief package," she said.

"They took a fortnight in February and calculated what services would earn from that, prior to any disruption we may have had from coronavirus.

"We were really fortunate that we had very high occupancy during that reference period.

"A lot of people are really angry with how this whole thing went down. A lot of services are angry that they had to have capped revenue and they're angry about the fact JobKeeper didn't work for their services. We're really lucky.

"We feel like that transition payment and relief package payment was good and all of our staff at Bindarra are permanent so everyone qualified for JobKeeper."

Bindarra Daycare director Olivia Vollbrecht with son Ari. Picture: Cordell Richardson
Bindarra Daycare director Olivia Vollbrecht with son Ari. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Mrs Vollbrecht said she was positive about how things will go in the coming months as the center has a high occupancy rate.

It currently sits at 95 per cent and was at 93 per cent pre-COVID-19.

The not-for-profit kindy employs 18 staff and has a 44-space capacity.

"We will be OK because our numbers are still good, we've actually gained numbers," she said.

"There was a period of real uncertainty. We're well positioned with all of the (financial) help.

"We still have only two families that aren't coming and that's because they're on the vulnerable list. Otherwise we are full.

"If everything was to fall apart, we'd still be cushioned and carried through for a little bit. It wouldn't be dire for us."

Mrs Vollbrecht said she fielded plenty of calls from parents in the past couple of months wanting to enrol their children but could not take them on as she was full.

"I can tell they're struggling to get a place because of how the packages rolled out," she said.

"Services had a capped amount of money and therefore they have calculated how that's going to work for them and staffed accordingly.

"I assume services haven't been taking families because they're not going to get any extra money from it. Now we're able to resume normal business practices."

Mrs Vollbrecht said she was wary of the impact on parents now free child care was no longer available.

"It hasn't impacted us yet but I'm really wart of how that may impact us come September," she said.

"September is when the families stop getting help as well. That might be the biggest impact we have.

"My only hope from all of this is we're able to reframe our thinking that childcare is a service to families and it's not about what we should be earning but what we're able to provide for the community."

Cribb Street Child Care Centre manager Bern Leedham said reverting back to the older system would not have any impact on the community kindy.

"At the moment we're averaging about 38 (kids) a day. We can have up to 43," she said.

"None of our parents really have lost a job or not been able to return to work.

"It hasn't really affected us. We have a lot of frontline workers at our centre.

"If you go to Brisbane you might find centres which are having issues due to (what industries parents are employed in)."

Ms Leedham said centres in the area had worked together to ensure those needing work were looked after.

"We supported each other," she said.

"We had some educators that went to other centres and some girls from other centres came and worked with us until their centre went back to full numbers."

She was worried about what would happen if Queensland gets a second wave of infection.

"I just want to see what happens over the next four weeks," she said.

"If we get another wave and the government don't support us, that's where we will probably stuggle in the sense of the financial and support for families too."

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