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13 August, 2021
Lockdown Update
Reaching out 

It's been a tough week for our school communities - especially those with COVID cases or exposure. 

We'd like to acknowledge the wonderful way school communities have pulled together and the vital and central role that P&Cs are playing - providing tangible support; as information brokers; feeding back parent concerns; and as a way to have contact with community.

Council has also been reaching out - to parents in schools with COVID cases, via our member P&Cs; to P&Cs concerned about their canteens and other business services; to parents of children with disability and complex needs; and with feedback to the Minister and Education Directorate.

Please do reach out to us if your P&C needs support, or if you have feedback on the current situation. Simply email us
Home learning

In response to parent need and questions coming in, the Education Directorate now has FAQs on teacher-led home learning.  All parents should have received specific communications from their school on the particular arrangements for home learning for their students.

We value your feedback and are keen to communicate parent experiences to the Education Directorate. Contact us by email, or come along to our meeting next week (see below).
Home learning - students with disability & complex needs

The FAQs above include questions about ILPs and LSAs. We understand that more FAQs will be added in relation to students with additional needs.

Online session for parents

At very short notice, Council held an online session yesterday (Thursday 19) about what can be expected from home learning for parents of children with disability or additional needs. We were able to relay information and plans from the Education Directorate and parents were able to discuss and share strategies and needs. A recording of the session is available (expires in 7 days) - just email us to request access.

We have organised for a similar online meet-up next week for 3pm on Thursday 26th August to check in and see how things are going one week into remote learning. We hope to be able to provide feedback to government to continue to improve.
Please register and you'll be sent the meeting login details.
COVID in schools

There are now FAQ for schools with COVID exposure/cases.

Council staff have been working with member P&Cs at the affected schools. While there's not a lot we can do to help, and we've been impressed by the government response, we have been able to relay parent need and feedback to the Education Directorate and Minister, and have been able to resolve some specific issues. We've also been able to offer help with communications and handling the media.

For those who have had to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone and can’t earn an income, there is a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment you may be eligible for.
Staying up to date

Things are moving quickly, so do check our facebook page if you are able.
Support is available

There are many organisations and government programs offering support for families at this time. We have collated many on our website (Getting help: COVID), from help with food, to access to a school psychologist.

People who have had their income and work hours reduced due to the lockdown may be eligible for a Services Australia payment through the Covid-19 disaster payment scheme, which opens today (20 August). In addition, there is a Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for those who need to self-isolate, quarantine or care for someone and can’t earn an income.
Council General Meeting
Be part of the discussion

We've changed the agenda of our August meeting to focus on issues associated with the lockdown, including:
  • Home learning experiences
  • COVID management for school clusters and community
  • return to school
  • P&C solvency, especially for those operating businesses and employing staff
  • vaccination.
Your input will be important for Council to advocate for parents and parent associations to the Education Directorate, ACT Health and the Education Minister. Anyone is welcome to come and we will collate input from all attendees. Note that only Council delegates from P&Cs are eligible to vote, if a vote is called.

Join us online (via Zoom) on Tuesday 24 August, from 7pm. We will run break-out sessions on key topics to keep timing manageable.
Register to attend, and you'll get the meeting link.
P&C operations

As the lockdown unfolds we will endeavour to update our COVID Information Page for P&Cs to provide our members with current information and assistance.

Please check the page as needed.

We've been contacting some P&Cs who run canteens to discuss the biggest challenges right now and we know that your financial position is very difficult and the situation is complex. It's also great to hear of P&Cs and schools working together to make sure kids who need it can access food while so few students are attending. 

Our General Meeting next week will include discussion about how the lockdown affects canteens and other P&C businesses, and sharing of expertise - see item above.

Note that the registration fee for food business has been waived until 31 March 2022. 

Your canteen may be eligible for ACT business assistance - see below.

If you employ staff... read on!
If your P&C employs staff

Casual Employees

In the current case, casual staff can be stood down without pay. Obviously, this will be hard on staff, but most will be eligible for Federal Government assistance - see below.

Full-time or part-time staff

Full- or part-time staff may be stood down without pay if your business is directed to close - see the Fair Work website for details. This makes the ACT Government's decision to allow canteens and OSHC services to remain open challenging for employers.

For this reason, we have been asking the ACT Education Directorate to consider directing all public school canteens to close. This will enable P&C-run canteens to stand down staff without pay over the lockdown period and should allow most P&C-run canteens to remain solvent. We are waiting on an announcement about this shortly.

Obviously, this will be hard on staff, but most will be eligible for Federal Government payments.

Federal Government assistance for affected workers

Workers who have lost hours and income may be eligible for the Federal Government's Covid 19 disaster payment. Applications for this payment open today (Friday 20 August). Please check the eligibility requirements at the Services Australia website

Payments are available for full-time, part-time and casual staff: $750 for people who have lost more than 20 hours of work per week and $450 for those who have lost between 8 and 20 hours. Those who do not already receive Centrelink payments will need to set this up, which can be done online through myGov. Those already receiving an income payment through Centrelink will receive a $200 increase to that payment.
ACT Business assistance

The ACT Government has announced two schemes funded jointly with the Federal Government for businesses needing help due to the lockdown. Currently, expressions of interest are being taken.

The COVID-19 Business Support Grants provide up to $10,000 over the three-week lockdown period if your turnover has declined by 30 per cent or more. To be eligible your P&C must have an ABN, an annual turnover of more than $75,000 and be registered for GST. Unfortunately, this last criteria will exclude many P&Cs. Council is currently advocating for P&C-run businesses and discussing this criteria with the ACT Government.

The COVID-19 Small Business Hardship Scheme allows businesses to apply for credits for payroll tax, utility charges, rates and other selected fees and charges up to a maximum of $10,000 per operator. These aren't generally big expenses for P&Cs, but will assist some providing OOSHC services in particular.
Outside of School Hours Care (OSHC)

We are contacting P&Cs who run these services in their schools to work with them on the complexities of the current situation. See items above on business assistance and for employers. Contact us with enquiries.

The Council General Meeting next week will include discussion about how the lockdown affects OSCH and other P&C businesses, and sharing of expertise - see item above.
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Comment authorised by Terry L Sanders for the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations

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