Oh wow.. Has it been a week!
The Melbourne nanny community has been on a wild ride of changing information and adjustments since Stage 4 Restrictions were announced (in an attempt to get a handle on the coronavirus outbreak that has exploded like nowhere else in the country). The nanny industry is a small industry in Australia, and we tend to not be given a voice when it comes to regulations made by authorities. The dilemmas we face in our small industry turned into a growing issue on Sunday when many parents realised that they would not be allowed to send their children to childcare centres under the new rules. Childcare is only available for ‘permitted workers’, which left a lot of parents scrambling.
Parents began advertising and reaching out to people in the community to try to get nannies to replace centre care. Personally, I immediately felt uncomfortable about this. Okay, I began to panic. After all, I have been advocating since March for nannies to limit their work to just one household! Ads began popping up for “someone to watch my children for 3 hours, 3 days a week while I work from home” and “a babysitter to watch my child once a week, so I can get things done around the house, because she won’t be able to attend childcare”. This sounded like a recipe for disaster, which was confirmed with the number of caregivers advertising that they were available to help other families on days they weren’t already working.
I truly understand that parents need help. Under normal circumstances I’m an advocate for nannies because we can provide so much to a family, whether parents are in an office all day, travelling, or just need an extra pair of hands to help them out. As a nanny I proudly support people’s physical and mental wellbeing by providing care. But let me state the obvious: These Are Not Normal Circumstances. We are in really challenging times, and I trust the authorities who say that we need to drastically reduce the number of people moving throughout the community, and the number of physical contacts people have, in order to get this outbreak under better control. I’ve got my eye on the future, that we’ll be rewarded with after the devastating effort we’re about to put in.
It has taken several days for information specific to nannies to be released by the State Government. Those days were filled with speculation and misinformation spread by media, local MPs, agencies, nannies, and parents. I’d still appreciate clearer, more specific rules. At ‘the moment of printing’, the most recent official statement I have found is the Permitted Worker Scheme page of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website, which was updated today. My summary of the information under the Childcare Permit heading is that in-home childcare is only allowed for permitted workers, who already have existing arrangements in place with an in-home care provider, when no other adult living in the household is capable of providing care. In addition to this (as has been made clear about childcare in general), vulnerable people are also eligible to receive care. This eases my mind about the virus’ spreading potential if so many people try to get nannies to work when they are not allowed to access centre care.
It’s not perfect. This is going to be an incredibly tough 6 weeks for many families and nannies. Nannies may struggle financially if parents do not pay them during this time at home, and they may need to reach out to unemployment services. Parents working at home in ‘non-permitted’ roles will have to find a balance between caring for their children and getting work done. I truly hope employers are understanding of this and provide their employees with flexibility. We have to take care of one another. Many children will need to learn how to play independently, take more responsibility for their own school work, and will miss their normal routines and caregivers. My hope is that Melbourne (and wider Victoria) will put in the effort to make this period of restriction succeed so that we can move forward into a less restricted new normal.
My personal pleas to nannies and families? Follow the rules, as a bare minimum. Don’t look for loopholes to try to get around those rules. The rules are there for a reason, and unfortunately that’s not to make anyone’s life easy during this time. Aim to do things that cause the least potential risk to yourself and the community. Please, if at all possible, limit nanny work to just one household. Consider the approach New Zealand took during their successful lockdown – think of the nanny’s home and one family’s home as a bubble that is as small as possible in order to protect people. Follow public health and hygiene recommendations as. best you can – hand washing, masks, distancing. Behave as though you have the virus, and take precautions to avoid spreading it.
Use resources that are available to you – apply for unemployment benefits to get you through, communicate with others to find a solution to your needs, reach out for support when you need it from family, friends, your community, and professionals. Call the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline if you need information or help (1800 675 398). I’m also here for those who need help with ways to communicate within their work arrangement, sourcing information, or any other support I can provide (from a distance!).
Stay safe, stay home, and THANK YOU to those who can do that and also to those who are providing essential services that don’t allow you to completely isolate yourself.