Melbourne childcare attendance dwindling amid pandemic

Childcare attendance is dwindling “far below” a sustainable threshold as outbreaks in Melbourne early learning centres grow.

Australian Education Union representative Cara Nightingale told NCA NewsWire childcare centres needed 75 per cent enrolment to remain viable, but numbers had plummeted since the second lockdown.

“Childcare centres cannot be sustainable moving forward like this,” she said.

“Childcare was the first sector to have JobKeeper taken away – its affected a sector where 97 per cent is female-dominated and also one of the lowest paid in the country.

“Families are now in a position where childcare is too expensive, but also can’t go to work without childcare and it’s a vicious cycle that’s putting lot of pressure on families.”

Since January 1 there have been 82 cases of coronavirus linked to outbreaks at 13 childcares in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

Nino Early Learning Centre in Bundoora is at the centre of the state’s largest childcare outbreak with 25 cases.

While three children in four-year-old kinder and a staff member at the Hope Early Learning Centre in Frankston Heights also returned positive results for COVID-19.

Childcare workers lost access to JobKeeper on July 20, with no other sector losing the wage subsidy earlier than the September 27 cut-off.

But the Federal government announced $708 million in funding for services to replace JobKeeper from July 13 until September 27.

Under the “transition payment” the funding would pay childcare services 25 per cent of the fee revenue they received before the COVID-19 pandemic saw the sector crash.

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