Canberra’s largest provider of children’s services is freezing its fees to help families maintain access to crucial early childhood education and care services during difficult times.
Communities@Work has made the decision to freeze fees across its 12 early education and care centres and 17 out-of-school-hours care services for the remainder of 2020. Additionally, to support its 85 self-employed family day care and five in-home care educators, there will be no fee increase to the service levy educators pay to Communities@Work.
“We believe all children deserve the best start in life,” said Communities@Work CEO Lee Maiden. “Early childhood education and care develops children’s resilience and wellbeing and lays the foundation for lifelong learning, enhancing their employment and economic prospects when they become adults.
“Put simply, high-quality early childhood education and care makes a significant and lasting impact on children throughout their lives, especially for children who are experiencing disadvantage.
“Families deserve every opportunity to keep their children in early childhood education and care services. We will continue to support families and advocate for investment in universally accessible, high-quality early learning, delivered by a skilled and supported workforce.
“By freezing our fees, we’re hoping to give families some certainty in a time of uncertainty.”
Communities@Work’s director of children’s services, Kellie Stewart, agrees.
“Supporting families and children during this difficult time has been our priority,” she said. “Our educators have stayed on the frontline delivering essential services to children and families throughout the fire and smoke emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The loyalty and professionalism our staff have displayed in very challenging times has been simply incredible, and the glowing feedback we’ve received from schools during our support of the ACT Government’s Safe and Supervised School Sites made us very proud.”
Communities@Work’s children’s services have remained open for families throughout the COVID-19 crisis, despite the organisation facing financial challenges.
“2020 has been a tough year,” said Ms Maiden. “In March, some of our early education and care services saw declines in attendance as much as 90 per cent. At the time, our fear was that we may need to downsize or close some of our services, which would also mean job losses.
“In the worst-case scenario, Communities@Work may have had to close our doors completely. Thankfully, we avoided this scenario, but many in our community have not been so lucky and that is why it is so important we are ready for what comes next.
“We know that rising unemployment and a slowing economy is hitting many people hard. Many are experiencing hardship for the first time through job losses or reduced income.
“The end of the Commonwealth Government’s free childcare subsidy on 13 July was another blow, and the upcoming reduction in JobSeeker will make things even harder for many already struggling. We hope our decision to freeze fees gives families a little breathing space.”
As Canberra’s largest not-for-profit community organisation, Communities@Work invests every dollar it earns back into the local region, including the provision of much-needed services for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.