Help in an emergency

As done during the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2019–20 bushfires, the Australian Government will provide targeted support to providers, services and families in the event of a local emergency. This support is designed to help services recover quickly and ensure continuity of care for families.

On this page:

What is a local emergency?

In an emergency, you must make decisions that prioritise the health and safety of the workers and children at your service. 

Help is available for families and early childhood education and care services during a local emergency, like bushfires, floods or a pandemic.     

Family Assistance Law defines a local emergency as an event which: 

  • affects a widespread area 
  • has a severe impact on the lives of the people in that area, and  
  • prevents children from attending a service or may make attending dangerous. This could be because there is major damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure. 

An event is also considered a local emergency if a disaster declaration is made by: 

  • a state emergency service 
  • the police, or  
  • another Commonwealth, state or territory agency, and  
  • the event prevents children from attending a service or may make attending dangerous. For example, declaration of a catastrophic fire danger rating. 

Events that are not considered a local emergency include:  

  • break-ins 
  • vandalism 
  • localised storm damage or minor flooding affecting only one service. 

Preparing for an emergency

Business.gov.au has a range of resources to help you plan for emergencies. These include: 

It is important to plan for your risk. Identify the types of disasters you are exposed to and the likelihood of these occurring, and make sure you have an appropriate level of insurance in place.

Emerging Minds has a range of resources on preparing for disasters as part of its Community Trauma Toolkit.  

Help during an emergency

Absences 

Families can get Child Care Subsidy (CCS) when their child is absent from a session of care they would normally attend for up to 42 days per financial year. These absences can be used for any reason, including a local emergency.

Families can access additional absence days during a local emergency if their child has used their 42 absence days. To access additional absences during a local emergency, one of the following must apply: 

  • the service was closed as a direct result of a local emergency 
  • the child cannot attend, for example because they can’t get to the service, for up to 28 days after the emergency 
  • a family chooses not to send their child, for up to 7 days after the emergency, or 
  • the child is ill and has a doctor’s certificate.  

Additional absences reported for an emergency will only be paid if the event is considered a local emergency under Family Assistance Law.

You must contact our office in your state or territory before reporting an additional absence due to a local emergency. We will confirm whether the event constitutes a local emergency. If we confirm it is a local emergency, you will be able to access these additional absences in the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS).

More information on reporting absences is available in the Child Care Provider Handbook. 

If you can’t submit session reports 

You must submit session reports within 14 days after the end of the week in which a session occurred.

Business Continuity Payments may be made if something happens that prevents you from submitting session reports.  

The amount to be paid will be based on the average weekly amount paid to the service during a similar previous period. These payments must be passed on to families as a fee reduction. 

The amount paid will be offset against CCS payments once you can submit session reports again. 

If you can’t submit session reports on time due to a local emergency, contact the CCS Helpdesk as soon as possible on 1300 667 276. 

More information on reporting sessions of care and Business Continuity Payments is available in the Child Care Provider Handbook. 

If you have to close 

Closing your service is an individual business decision.

Your state and territory government also has its own rules on when and how communities should protect themselves during a local emergency. For guidance on whether to close during an emergency, please contact the appropriate government authority in your state or territory. 

You need to tell us if you do temporarily close your service, for any reason and for any period. 

You can do this via the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or your third-party software.

You also need to tell your state or territory regulatory authority.

Discounting fees 

You must take all reasonable steps to ensure families make a co-contribution to their child care fees, even during an emergency. 

You may consider supporting affected families by reducing your fees, or not charging fees for a limited time.  

If you do reduce your fees, you must report the discounted fee in session reports. This is because we work out how much CCS to pay based on the actual fee you charge a family. 

If you don’t charge any fee, you will not receive CCS for the child and should not include them in session reports. 

Finding care during an emergency 

Families can search for vacancies at approved child care services in their area on Child Care Finder

Caring for displaced children 

You can take on displaced children from another service during a local emergency. CCS will be paid as per any other enrolled child.  

You must not exceed your licensed number of places when taking on displaced children. If you need more places, contact your state or territory regulatory authority.  

Supporting employees involved in emergency efforts  

Information about employees who engage in eligible community service activity, such as volunteer firefighters, is available on the Fair Work website.

Information about employees who are Defence Reservists is available on the Defence Reserves Support website. 

Each state and territory also has information about how employers can support employees undertaking emergency efforts. Please contact the appropriate government authority in your state or territory to find out more. 

Recovering after an emergency

Payments for providers 

CCCF Special Circumstances 

The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity helps services stay open when something unexpected happens, such as a local emergency. 

More information about CCCF Special Circumstances is available on our website. 

Payments for families 

ACCS (temporary financial hardship) 

Families who are eligible for CCS may get extra help if they are experiencing temporary financial hardship due to an emergency that happened in the last 6 months.

More information on Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship), including how to apply, is available on the Services Australia website.  

Third party payments 

Please visit our third party payment of gap fee webpage for the latest information.  

Other Government payments 

The Australian Government provides a range of payments and services for individuals recovering from a major disaster. More information on emergency payments is available on the Services Australia website. 

Looking after mental health 

Emergencies and disasters can have a profound impact on mental health. Knowing how to look after yourself, and others, is important for recovery. 

Here are a range of resources you may find helpful after an emergency: 

Each state and territory also offer mental health services and programs. 

More information by state and territory 

Australian Capital Territory 

ACT Emergency Services Agency 

ACT Health 

ACT Education 

New South Wales 

NSW State Emergency Service 

Resilience NSW 

NSW Health 

NSW Education 

Northern Territory 

NT Emergency Service 

NT Health 

NT Education 

Queensland  

QLD State Emergency Service 

QLD Fire and Emergency Services 

QLD Health 

QLD Education 

South Australia 

SA State Emergency Service 

SA Health 

SA Education 

Tasmania 

TAS State Emergency Service 

TAS Fire Service 

TAS Health 

TAS Education and Care 

Victoria 

VIC State Emergency Service

VIC Emergency  

VIC Health and Human Services 

VIC Education and Training 

Western Australia 

WA Fire and Emergency Services 

EmergencyWA 

WA Health 

WA Education 

Need more assistance?

There is more information about emergencies on DisasterAssist.

Contact the CCS Helpdesk on 1300 667 276 or ccshelpdesk@dese.gov.au.