Platform gives teachers a chance to help health workers stay at work

Platform gives teachers a chance to help health workers stay at work

For Alex Flavel, a casual relief teacher, Tuesday's abrupt closure of Victoria's schools to stem the spread of coronavirus cost him work but also created an urgent need to assist healthcare workers with children to keep them at their posts.

Fortunately, thanks to a collaborate effort stretching as far away as Finland, a new web-based platform, Sub_in Australia, offers an opportunity for young teachers to connect with doctors, nurses and other medical staff in sudden need for home-based help.

Alex Flavel, a casual relief teacher, who has signed up to offer his skills to help care for the children of medical staff too busy to leave their posts.

Mr Flavel, 27, was among the first couple of dozen teachers, to sign up to provide "a hybrid tutor" role and, if necessary, even cook.

"We're stepping into that gap there to help those healthcare workers with child care," he said.

By keeping medical staff in their jobs, "they can save many more lives", Mr Flavel said. "It's all part of the community's effort to really fight back against this virus."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other senior federal ministers have argued that schools needed to be kept open because closing them could mean as many as 30 per cent of healthcare staff having to drop out of work to care for their children.

However, other governments in other places, such as in Germany's Berlin, have intervened to ensure childcare is available for medical staff even if their schools have temporarily closed.

Jeanne Bardin, a website developer and crypto-currency investor, was spurred to coordinate the creation of Sub_in within a week after hearing from her father – the head of a major Monash hospital – about the looming challenges posed to the health system from the COVID-19 virus.

Jeanne Bardin, the developer helping to coordinate the Sub_in platform, at the now-closed Park Orchards Primary School north of Melbourne.

"It's like an old-school jobs board," Ms Bardin said, adding, "We're not making any money – we're not even covering costs."

Ms Bardin said her team has approached Dan Tehan and other ministers to have the government's childcare subsidy – otherwise available to medical workers – extended so that it can be used in their own homes during the viral emergency.

Currently, the subsidy is only available for registered healthcare centres – many of which have closed or may be soon.

"It won't cost the government anything" compared with what they are already forking out, she said.

Finland-based Sharetribe provided its web services for free, and offered around-the-clock support. A Swinburne University-based arm of the Random Hacks of Kindness group of technology-savvy volunteers also chimed in.

"The ideal situation is that nobody would use it" because governments have stepped in to fill the gap, Ms Bardin said.

To reduce the risks that the teachers are carrying the virus, those offering their skills must be under 40 years old, and meet other checks for caring for children.

Mr Flavel said "no-one's guaranteed to not get it" but those taking part had a responsibility to reduce their exposure to others. Then again, "healthcare workers are more likely to bring it into homes", a risk he said he was prepared to take.

Mr Tehan's office was approached for comment.

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