CCSA Joint COVID Advocacy – Update

CCSA continues to work with fellow colleagues and like minded organisations to advocate on behalf of the Early Childhood sector.

Below is a letter sent to the Premier on behalf of the Early Childhood Education Advisory Group seeking a meeting to discuss the impact of the current COVID outbreak and resulting lockdowns on ECEC services in NSW

You can read the Group’s previous correspondence with the Premier here.

CCSA Members are encouraged to contact us with questions and concerns for us to raise on your behalf when advocating for the sector.

1 September 2021
The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, MP
Premier of New South Wales
52 Martin Place SYDNEY NSW 2000

Dear Premier,

Re: NSW Early Childhood Education Advisory Group

We acknowledge your response via the Parliamentary Secretary, to our letter dated 23 August 2021. As a group of trusted representatives of Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) and Before and After School Care (BASC) sectors, we are not satisfied that our message has been heard and we respectfully and urgently request a meeting with you personally, to discuss the importance of strengthening the NSW Public Health Order to reduce early and middle education and care attendance in accordance with the Chief Health Officers advice and present you with information to support decision making.

As we predicted in our previous correspondence to you, the absence of clear rules has seen very high levels of attendance at early education and care services continuing, placing our workforce and children at risk and putting enormous pressure on services to manage parents’ expectations.

With COVID case numbers in NSW now over 1000 daily, including many children, and higher levels anticipated in October, lack of clear direction in the Public Health Order contradicts the NSW Government’s stated intent to restrict spread amongst households and keep the sector safe.

We again request that a clear directive is added to the Public Health Order, advising that access to ECEC and BASC, is strictly limited to essential workers only, including those working at home, disadvantaged children and those who can’t reasonably supervise their children.

In Victoria and Australian Capital Territory, we are seeing a desirable strong correlation between clear advice on attendance restrictions in Public Health Orders and dramatically reduced attendance at early education and care services. A member of this group representing large providers, saw attendance in the ACT fall to 17.5% from 67% in response to clear advice from the ACT government that only vulnerable children and those whose carers and parents cannot work from home may attend.

Centres in Greater Melbourne fell to 40% from 64% when the Victorian Government said centres would only open to vulnerable children and children of authorised workers.

The opposite is occurring in New South Wales, and it is difficult to accept and interpret why this is an acceptable position to Government. According to NSW Health data, nearly 1000 children (0-9) currently have tested positive to COVID. Families need clear direction from the Public Health Order, so as they understand the risk and to assist their employers to understand why children need to remain home.

As a recognised group of peak bodies and organisations collectively representing thousands of ECEC and BASC services across NSW we are tasked with providing advice to the Government.

Our advice is that without absolute clarity in our Public Health Orders, as is the case in other states, the result will be the unnecessary spread of COVID amongst children, educators, and households. We hold very real fears for our workforce, for children and families and for the sustainability of ECEC and BASC services across NSW. Many services are predicting unsustainable workforce loss as educators leave due to fear, relentless work pressure and understandably feeling unprotected and unsupported by their own State Government.

Please grant us the opportunity to factually present our sectors’ situation to you and to understand and correctly represent your position.

We seek your urgent engagement with us in the interests of reducing the spread of COVID across children, educators, and households.

Your sincerely,

NSW Early Childhood Advisory Group

Michele Carnegie, Chief Executive Officer, Community Early Learning Australia (CELA)
Melissa Messina, Representative, Local Government Children’s Services
Jenni Hutchings, Chief Executive Officer, Big Fat Smile
Chris Legg, Chief Executive Officer, KU Children’s Services
Associate Professor Sandie Wong, Macquarie School of Education
Pauline O’Kane, Chief Executive Officer, Network of Community Services
Professor Marina Papic, Australian Catholic University
Meg Mendham, Chief Executive Officer, Community Connections Solutions Australia (CCSA)
Professor Marc de Rosnay, Academic Director, Early Start, University of Wollongong
Anita Jovanovski, Chief Executive Officer, NSW Family Day Care Association Inc.
Carol A Burgess, NSW State President, Ealy Childhood Australia (ECA)
Kim Bertino, State Manager NSW/ACT, Goodstart Early Learning
Elizabeth Death, Chief Executive Officer, Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA)