• CEO of Bubup Wilam, Lisa Thorpe, said COVID-19 has again brought up funding issues. (ABC News: Simon Winter)Source: ABC News: Simon Winter
Not-for-profit Indigenous community childcare centres say they have been left out of the conversation when it comes to the federal governments COVID-19 free daycare promise, and that it has in fact highlighted ongoing funding issues.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

12 Apr 2020 - 3:44 PM  UPDATED 12 Apr 2020 - 3:44 PM

As parents have begun working from home or self-isolating alongside their families, there has been a huge drop in enrolments at daycare centres across the board.

In response, Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced that childcare would be free to all parents who remained working throughout the pandemic, extending to those who work from home, and those who have already pulled their children out of care.

But for not-for-profit centres, such as Bubup Wilam, located in Melbourne's northern suburbs, they have seen a drop in attendance, but an increase in enrolments as they provide a crucial service to the community in providing culturally sensitive care.

All of the children enrolled are Indigenous, and CEO Lisa Thorpe told NITV News that the funding package was aimed at commercial daycare centres, which has highlighted ongoing funding issues.

"The COVID virus is actually doing for us more than just highlight an issue that we need money, otherwise we're going to be in trouble. They've just given us more income at the moment, but actually really hasn't solved our problem," Ms Thorpe said.

"We employ above the ratio and we actually have a lot more workers working here to do one-on-one work with our kids, do a whole lot more work with the social and emotional wellbeing, and we do a whole lot more work as in ensuring that every child has a good opportunity to be the best they can be.

"We do and we always have done a whole lot more for our families than just babysitting them or child minding."

Because families who attend the centre are on low income and most of their funding comes from the Child Care Subsidy, Ms Thorpe said it has led the centre to be in "lots of trouble".

"We don't have high working parents, we've got a couple of them, but not enough to survive this. So the whole process of families don't have to pay or the CCS will cover up, that was actually aimed at commercial higher income people, commercial centres," she said.

"So that the actual losses of the main source of income, the CCS has really sort of made us panic, but now they're starting to relook at that and actually how they can fix that up."

Ms Thorpe said although attendance has significantly dropped to between seven to 17 children each day, Bubup Wilam's enrolments have actually gone up, demonstrating a strong sense of community, and the importance of the centre.

"So it's been really good, it's been not so tough, as just the feeling that our family support us is really, really good," she said.

Lack of PPE concerning

Although a funding package is much needed, Richard Weston, the CEO of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) said it was funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies and services that is urgently and desperately needed.

"Many of [the centres] are struggling to source reliable supplies of hand sanitisers and gloves. So that's a predominant issue with calling for the department to guarantee that supply to help set up supply lines," Mr Weston said.

"At the moment, the way that department's coming to grips with these issues is SNAICC has a meeting with the services, we capture all of these issues, and then try to make it a coherent message back to the department. That's just chewing up a lot of time, and I think time is of the essence now."

SNAICC has called for the federal government to cut out the middle man by setting up a 1800 number that centres can call directly to share and source information.

"We're suggesting the department establish a free call number so that services, they can talk directly with services, walk them through the steps they need to take to access subsidies and other other supports, but also to hear directly from them about some of those challenging issues," Mr Weston said.

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