The City of Ballarat’s Family and Children’s Services team has continued operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as they are considered essential services.
The team has also successfully adapted its services to the Victorian Government’s Stage 3 restrictions, including:
Maternal and Child Health: Maternal and Child Health continue to provide key age and stage consultations via telephone. Brief home visits continue to occur for newborn babies and when there are concerns for mother or baby. Social distancing, health screening and cleaning regimes are in place for home visits or attendance at MCH centres if required; The First Time Parents Groups are now being held online using Teams technology. These will be rolled out in small groups with one-hour sessions over a three-week period.
Kindergarten: The Victorian Government will provide up to $45 million in extra funding to support sessional kindergarten providers. This funding will provide close to $500 per child in a funded kindergarten program which means 4-year-old kindergarten is free for Term 2. Children are continuing to attend kindergarten during Stage 3 restrictions ; Kindergarten care/curriculum packs have been delivered to families to support online learning and minimise reliance on screen time. There is also daily contact with families. In the Kindergarten at Home program, teachers suggest a range of simple play activities that families can do at home. For Kindergarten families who do not have access to the internet or simple resources for play and learning, we have provided them with a pack that contains paper, glue, craft materials, crayons, balloons, counters, tracing sheets and more.
Childcare (still physically operating):
The Australian Government has announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package on supporting childcare providers to remain open and provide needed care for children of essential workers and vulnerable families. Childcare will be free for families until 30 June 2020;
Online enrolment and orientation processes are available via the City of Ballarat’s website;
Girrabanya Integrated Children’s Centre and Wendouree Children’s Centre have a mix of children attending the centre and children learning from home in Term 2. The Learning at Home program assists parents help their child to learn through relaxed play. The program also provides a smooth transition back into the classroom when children return, as teachers will have gathered lots of information about their Learning at Home to plan for them in the classroom;
Distribution of weekly Boredom Busters series to childcare families and via the Parent Place Facebook page;
Wendouree Children’s Centre has been unable to take the children on their usual regular outings to visit residents at the PS Hobson nursing home, so they are sending them colourful, paper hugs instead and looking at using technology to reconnect through singing and stories;
A Learning at Home booklet has been created to support parents in their role at any time, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic. It talks about the importance of play in early childhood, lists a range of useful parenting websites, provides some simple activities to do at home that don’t require any special equipment, gives tips on setting routines for children, and introduces parents to the Early Years Learning Outcomes used in the Victorian education curriculum.
Family Day Care (still operating): There are a small number of Family Day Care families and educators who have chosen to self-isolate at this time but are still remaining connected with children and their families through sharing online story times and activities, plus special mail deliveries of letters and pictures etc.
Parent Place: Parent Place has moved its activities to its Facebook page; Parent Place has established a referral triage model to support families with young children following requests through Customer Service for food and material aid.
Supported Playgroups: Supported Playgroups are also using Teams technology to remain connected. Supported Playgroup Facilitators have assembled and non-contact delivered playgroup activity packs to over 90 families eligible for the program.
Immunisations: The childhood immunisation clinic has temporarily relocated from Lucas Community Hub to the Sebastopol Library. Children’s Services team members are assisting immunisation nurses at each immunisation clinic to ensure social distancing and cleaning regimes are implemented, and to provide valued customer service;
School immunisations for Years 7 and 10 will still be offered in the community from the Ballarat Aquatic and Lifestyle Centre, with families to be contacted individually for appointment bookings.
Partnerships: Partnership work is underway with other community service organisations, such as BADAC, WRISC, Centacare and CAFS to support their work and connection of families to universal services.