Covid doesn’t just stop at the front door of Australian childcare centers | Lisa Bryant
VSCan anyone tell me why we have such a dichotomy in Australia where parents love their babies and young children with passion but based on national policy their needs and the needs of those caring of them are continually neglected?
Having assessed the evidence that Covid appears to be a relatively mild illness in children, it seems our Commonwealth and State and Territory governments have simply never checked themselves to see how the services looking after them – our education and our early care (child care) services – go.
How are they ? The good news is that so far the children are surviving. Although nearly 88,000 children under the age of nine have caught Covid in Australia so far, there have only been two deaths.
But when it comes to the services that welcome and educate our youngest children, our long-term care services, our preschools, our home childcare services and our after-school childcare services, and the educators and teachers who supervise these services , the news is less good. . Since the very beginning of the pandemic, the ability of these services to stay afloat has been seriously threatened.
Governments have continually put in place short-term financial assistance to parents and services to keep their doors open. But then they take it away. Because it was never more than a series of temporary patches on a gaping wound.
So here we are with Covid tearing the country apart and we have education and care services, and the people who employ them, are going bankrupt again.
Financially they cannot survive without additional support if they have to keep waiving parent fees because parents are keeping their children at home out of fear or because they have to close because too many of their staff have Covid or are close contacts.
Every solution to this problem was only made temporarily because, I don’t know, you can’t keep making things free, can you? Even if your economy and your healthcare system desperately need CPEs to keep their doors open.
The people running these services are frantically trying to ensure the safety of the children and babies in their care. They must respect the national quality framework in which they operate. Quality Area 2 of this framework requires services to keep children healthy and safe, minimize risk, and protect children from harm and infection.
This is what they are required to always do, even when we are not in the middle of a pandemic.
But in some states like NSW, they have been told that staff no longer have to self-isolate if there is a positive case in their centre. Even if they spent 10 hours in the same room or with the positive child on their lap! How can anyone ignore that this puts children and other staff at a high risk of catching this damn virus?
But no, apparently you can only catch Covid in homes. Not in a center where hundreds of children spend hours away from home. A manager told me this week that apparently the government thinks Covid is left in their center parking lot and not allowed through the front door.
Center directors and managers are also having to juggle staff absences due to positive Covid cases and close contact exposures outside the centres. But unlike, say, restaurants, they can’t just close if they don’t have enough staff to operate without impacting a bunch of other employees who need care to show up for their own work.
Young human beings cannot be left without adult care – unfortunately for the economy. Ask parents at the nearly 500 centers that have had to close so far how they feel about suddenly being left without care.
And then directors and managers have all the normal problems, like difficulty finding food to feed the children in their care given empty supermarket shelves, the need to find RATS in the private market to test their staff and high-quality masks for the educators that children climb and hug daily.
Every day they receive updated information on how they are supposed to operate from the ministries that regulate and fund them. The only thing missing from this avalanche of information is clear guidance and support.
You hear a lot in the media about school education and the need for children to go back to school now or later. We hear a lot about the deployment of the vaccination program for children aged 5 to 12 years. We hear about ventilation in schools, or the lack thereof.
But you don’t hear much about children under five who, after all, can’t be vaccinated at all. You don’t hear much about what’s going on in the centers that are desperately trying to keep these kids safe. You don’t hear much about how our early childhood educators and teachers are doing. You don’t hear much about the RATS that have been promised to these centers by governments that haven’t arrived yet.
You don’t hear much about how the women (97% of staff are actually women) who look after and educate our youngest children and run these centres, for some of the lowest salaries in Australia , get away with it.
But maybe you should because the answer is “not very well”.
Before, we had a world where women and children were protected. Apparently it happened around the same time as the coughing in public.