Early childhood education services across Melbourne are currently facing the impact of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. This has resulted in the reintroduction of restrictions, which has meant further tightening of the criteria families must meet to utilise child care services.
Many families now unable to access early childhood education, meaning reduced occupancy and work available for educators. As centres navigate these stage four restrictions, it’s important to incorporate a focus on supporting staff and their mental health and wellbeing.
Effective ways in supporting staff
Support can be delivered to early childhood employees in many ways through these difficult circumstances. Working together to support each other can help to reduce the negative impact experienced by all. These key strategies can go a long way to ensuring your employees (as well as yourself) feel supported:
Prioritise honesty and transparency
Being honest about the circumstances your centre is facing is important. Most people are well aware of the challenges currently being experienced across the state, so there is no need to sidestep concerns — transparency is encouraged. Let your employees know what is happening and what changes will need to take place, and why. Show them that you are working to create a plan that is fair and viable. Your honesty and transparency will be appreciated and help your employees to feel respected and valued, which will in turn contribute positively to their sense of self-worth, mental health and wellbeing.
Promote self-care and health practices
Owners, managers, directors and educators should all be encouraged to take good care of themselves. Self-care practices can be incredibly helpful in promoting good health, both mentally and physically. Eating well, getting enough sleep, going outside daily for a walk and making time for things that you enjoy are practical ways to enhance wellbeing.
Focus on connectedness
Staying connected is a great way of staying supported. Many employees are likely facing similar challenges, but sharing your problems and speaking with others who can relate can really help.
Create a dedicated time when you and your team can get together online and catch up. Regular communication will give everyone something to look forward to and plan for. You might like to arrange one-on-one time to chat with your employees to address any individual concerns.
Ensure everyone at your service has the latest information about the restrictions and Government support for the sector so that you can do the right thing by your staff and families. The Department provides all the most up-to-date guidelines pertaining to the ECEC sector and the coronavirus pandemic in one spot. There is also Government advice for centres, including funding, operations and health information available to you.
For Melbourne centres who require support, the Department website outlines measures introduced to manage the impact of the pandemic and its current related restrictions:
- Services can access the higher Transition Payment of 30 per cent of pre-COVID revenue for services in Stage 4 affected metropolitan Melbourne. It is advised that this should be used to keep early childhood staff employed, in lieu of JobKeeper payments.
- There is also an additional top-up payment available for eligible services in Stage 4 affected metropolitan Melbourne receiving lower CCS payments and experiencing greatly reduced attendances.
Share support resources with employees
There are many resources available for anyone finding themselves struggling or needing support. They can be someone to talk to, practical tips to try or professional guidance. We have compiled a number of these resources which you can utilise for yourself and also share them with your employees.
Mental health and wellbeing support
Employers supporting their staff is important as we work through this period of change, however professional support may sometimes be necessary. Encourage your staff to reach out to professional services and help them to find out where they can go for help, including their GP, counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
These resources below offer extensive support, catering to each individual’s preferred means for receiving support. From reading, watching or listening to resources, to chatting online, texting or speaking on the phone, there are mental health resources that are free to access and can make a world of difference.
Resources to listen to
- Guided meditations from the Black Dog Institute
- Not Alone podcast by BeyondBlue
- Expert Insights expert knowledge via the Black Dog Institute
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Headspace: Phone support for 12-25 year olds – 1800 650 890
- BeyondBlue – 1300 22 4636
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
- MensLine Australia – 1300 659 46
Text and chat support
- Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service – Web Chat by BeyondBlue
- Lifeline Crisis Chat online chat
- Lifeline Crisis Text
- Headspace Group Chat for 12-25 year olds
Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think is a personalised meditation and mindfulness app that helps you develop skills to manage life’s ups and downs. It invites you to check in with your emotions, and recommends short guided meditations customised to how you feel. Foundational meditations are free, and there are additional activities and features for a paid subscription.
ReachOut Breathe is a free app that helps you reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety by slowing down your heart rate with your iPhone or Apple Watch.
ReachOut WorryTime is a free app that gives you a place to store your worries until later, so you don’t get caught up in them and can get on with your day. WorryTime will alert you when it’s time to think about them. Instead of listening to negative thoughts or pushing them away, research shows that postponing worries and only giving them attention at a set time helps you manage worry.
The Check-In is a free app developed by Beyond Blue for anyone who wants to check in with a friend whom you are worried or concerned about. It guides you through four steps on how you could plan a conversation, and give you advice on next steps.
Remember, this is a temporary situation and help is always within reach.
Practical Outcomes aims to support the early childhood sector however we can during these difficult times, so please contact us to chat about your needs.