10 Jul 2021

Childhood centres fear financial impact of RSV outbreak

11:13 am on 10 July 2021

The Early Childhood Council is calling for more information and financial support from the government amid the outbreak of the potentially deadly virus, RSV.

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Rising cases of the RSV virus are affecting childhood centre attendance (file picture). Photo: 123rf

The contagious respiratory disease has soared among babies and children recently, with reports by the national virus laboratory network showing cases started climbing sharply in June, reaching 538 cases in the last week of the month alone.

The council's chief executive, Peter Reynolds, said there is a huge spike in absences at early childhood centres, with some losing nearly 60 percent of their enrolled numbers.

He said the current funding options are not enough to carry centres through the hardship.

"We are looking to the ministry to provide some additional information that would be helpful for centre - and for centres to pass on to worried parents - and also to reassure services that appropriate levels of funding won't be under threat because of the significant diminished number of children attending the service."

Reynolds said centres are playing their part to contain the outbreak by encouraging parents to keep sick tamariki home, but they are losing income.

"Services are dependent upon the children who are enrolled in the service. And they set up their costs and their staffing based on those enrolments.

"Now, if a child doesn't come along to a service on a certain day, that doesn't change the costs that the service has to face."

Reynolds said the government needs to provide clear information around the virus and financial support to struggling centres.

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