COVID-19 and early childhood education and care

The Australian Government is providing support to the early childhood education and care sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Last updated on 24/06/2022

Announcements

We regularly update our website with information on COVID-19 and what this may mean for early childhood education and care. Read latest announcements.

Gap fee waiving

Families who receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) must ordinarily make a co-contribution to their child care fees under Family Assistance Law. They do this by paying the difference between your fee and the CCS amount. This is known as the gap fee.

Until 30 June 2023 services can waive the gap fee for families and continue to receive CCS if a child is unable to attend care for one of three reasons:

1. The child, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate with COVID-19.

2. The child is at a higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

This includes:

  • children with a disability
  • children with severe chronic health conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Where the child has a disability or chronic health condition, the family must provide a letter from a medical practitioner confirming the child is at higher risk before you can waive the gap fee. You must keep a record of the letter.

3. The service, or a room at the service, is closed due to COVID-19.

This includes closures:

  • because educator-to-child ratios cannot be safely met while educators are isolating
  • because a Family Day Care or In Home Care educator can’t provide their usual service while they, or a member of their immediate household, are isolating due to COVID-19.

Services are encouraged to explore all options to remain open and provide care for vulnerable children and children of essential workers.

You must not waive the gap fee for families in any other circumstances. If a family chooses to keep their child at home and use absences, they must still pay the gap fee.

Charging practices, including the decision to waive gap fees in the above circumstances, are a business decision for individual services. You must accurately reflect waived gap fees in the fee statements provided to parents.

Contact your third-party software provider for help processing gap fee waivers.

Absences

Families can usually get CCS when their child is absent from care for up to 42 days, per child, each financial year. These absences can be used for any reason.

We increased the allowable absence count to 52 days for the 2021–22 and 2022–23 financial years, due to COVID-19.

Additional absences due to COVID-19

Families can access additional absences if they have used their annual allocation, in certain circumstances. This includes if a child is ill and a medical certificate is provided.

From 1 March 2022, if a child or a member of their immediate household has COVID-19, the family may also provide evidence of a positive COVID-19 test result from a government agency in place of a medical certificate.

Absences at start or end of an enrolment

We don’t usually pay CCS for any absences before a child’s first, or after their last, physical attendance. There are exceptions to this rule to support families during COVID-19.

For enrolments between 1 December 2021 and 30 June 2023, we may pay CCS for absences that occur in the 7 days:

  • before the child’s first day of care (inclusive of their first day)
  • after their last day of care (inclusive of their last day).

We’ll only pay these absences if a child, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate or has COVID-19. You don’t need to charge the gap fee in this circumstance.

You should record the absence, using the reason code: child ill.

Families do not need to provide evidence. You must not indicate you hold evidence unless the family has provided a medical certificate or evidence of a positive COVID-19 test result from a government agency.

Service closures

You must tell us if you are temporarily closing 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.

You may be eligible for a Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) special circumstances grant if you’ve had to close, or partially close, your service due to COVID-19 between 27 January and 30 June 2022.

COVID-19 restrictions

If a state or territory government restricts access to care due to COVID-19, we may declare a period of emergency. 

General support and resources

Keep up to date with COVID-19 advice from the Australian Government and all state and territory governments on the ACECQA website.

You may be eligible for a CCCF special circumstances grant if your service is at high risk of closure due to financial viability issues resulting from the pandemic after 30 June 2022. Other eligibility criteria will apply.

Families experiencing financial hardship may be eligible for Additional Child Care Subsidy.

The Australian Government provides COVID-19 support funding for businesses.

The Australian Government Department of Health has details on COVID-19 vaccines and safe hygiene practices.

Previous support packages

The Australian Government has implemented a range of support packages to help the early childhood education and care sector manage the impact of COVID-19.

COVID-19 timeline

We’ve developed a timeline for providers and services that captures important milestones relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Use the timeline as a reference for when lockdown restrictions and measures were in place across Australia.

Stay in touch

Update your contact details, particularly email addresses, in the Child Care Subsidy System so you don’t miss important information. Do this via the PEP or through your third-party software.

You can also stay up to date by subscribing to our newsletter and joining our Facebook Group.