Educators from Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) services and parents were both thrown a lifeline by Woden Community Service during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Schools moved to a home-based online learning environment on 24 March, leaving some parents with no alternative other than to work from home or take leave to look after children and help them learn online. At the same time, OSHC casual workers faced the prospect of applying for the Youth Allowance or JobSeeker payments.
Woden Community Service employs around 100 people as casuals in OSHC services, and immediately offered to match parents who needed babysitters with their OSHC staff. Thirty families made contact with the service and 18 were matched with a babysitter from the ranks of the out-of-work OSHC staff.
While most families needed only a few hours of care each day during school hours to help children with online learning, in some cases both parents were essential workers looking for full-time help. On average, the OSHC staff were able to pick up 10 to 15 hours of work a week during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Gillian Bradford is one of the parents who used home-based work, but needed a carer familiar with her son, Lachlan, who is nine years old and has special needs. She received an email alert about the WCS’ babysitting service and called to find if there was a person familiar with Lachlan from the OSHC team she could hire to help care for him.
Lewis Grey is taking a year or two off before he attends university to study environmental science, and is a former attendee of similar program himself. He says he wanted to spend a year giving back to the community, and met Lachlan about 18 months ago at after school care, and knew it was important to ensure Lachlan felt included.
“I heard someone at WCS was putting a list of casuals together to do some babysitting while we were in lockdown,” says Lewis, “so I put my name on the list.”
Before long, staff at OSHC realised Lewis and Lachlan knew each other through the program, and Gillian was in contact with him about doing some work with Lachlan during the shutdown period. Lewis became one of the casual workers employed through the initiative.
“Lachlan likes the sun,” he says “so I can take him outside to play, and I’m with him a bit at OSHC. It’s important that he has fun just like all the other kids,” says Lewis. “He’s gone back to school now, but I’ll see him at our usual after school program,” he said.
“It’s really important he has a good time, we all make sure he’s included,” said Lewis.
“To find someone who is a young man, who is so capable, to be responsible for someone so young and non-verbal,” says Gillian, “is amazing. To have young men in our community who are so confident and capable and to have Woden Community Care, who believe in inclusion, I can’t tell you what it means to parents of children with special needs.”
For more information about the Out of School Hours Carer program, contact the Woden Community Service on 6282 2644.