COVID-19 information for the early childhood education and care sector

The Australian Government is providing support to early childhood education and care services affected by COVID-19.

On this page:

Last updated at 6pm on 13/10/2021

Support for services

The Australian Government supports services affected by COVID-19 through:

This support is triggered when a service is in a ‘COVID-19 hotspot’, defined as:

The support will end when:

  • the state or territory government eases COVID-19 restrictions, or 
  • the COVID-19 hotspot as determined by the CMO ends.

From 10 October 2021 until the state or territory lifts restrictions around access to child care, services in New South Wales, parts of Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory can also waive gap fees and access additional allowable absences. 

Outside School Hours Care services in these states can waive gap fees and access additional allowable absences until primary school children can return to face to face learning.

New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory are easing restrictions at different times based on local conditions, in accordance with the National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response.

For specific state and territory responses see:

Regions eligible for support

The best way to find out if your service is eligible for support is to go to our early childhood COVID-19 support by region webpage.

Dates in this table are dependent on when health orders and advice are published by states, territories and the CMO. We update this table frequently, so check back often.

Business continuity payments

Services are eligible for fortnightly business continuity payments if the service is in a:

  • COVID-19 hotspot (defined above) for more than 7 days and the state or territory government has limited who can access child care, or
  • COVID-19 hotspot for more than 28 days.

Services must also meet conditions, outlined in the business continuity payment guidelines.

To receive payments, providers opt in their eligible services.     

Providers must tell us if a change of circumstance means they have to opt out, such as if a service’s attendance level is expected to be above 50%. Email ECECViabilitySupportPackage@dese.gov.au seeking a new form and include your provider and service CRNs. 

You do not need to complete a change of circumstances to tell us you are going into or coming out of a COVID-19 hotspot – this is being monitored.

When do payments end?

We will stop making payments when services come out of a COVID-19 hotspot (defined above), but we automatically restart payments if those services that opted-in go back into a hotspot. 

Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) will continue to receive payments until all primary school children are allowed to return to school, even if they are longer in a COVID-19 hotspot, provided they still meet the other eligibility criteria. 

Payments for all services will end on 30 November 2021.

Guidelines

The business continuity payments guidelines outline:

  • payment amounts by care type
  • conditions for receiving payments
  • payment dates and reference fortnights.

See regions eligible for business continuity payments.

Gap fee waiving

Services in a hotspot

Services can waive gap fees for families who keep their children at home if the service or family is in:

  • a COVID-19 hotspot (defined above) for more than 7 days. If this applies, services can waive gap fees from day 8 of the hotspot.
  • a COVID-19 hotspot for 7 days or fewer, where the state or territory government has limited who can access child care. If this applies, services can waive gap fees from the first day of the hotspot. 
  • an area where the state or territory government has limited who can access child care (or school in the case of OSHC), even if it is not a COVID-19 hotspot, from 10 October (see dates below).

All services in NSW can waive gap fees until:

  • 18 October for Centre Based Day Care, Family Day Care and In Home Care
  • 25 October for OSHC.

Some services in Victoria under lockdown can waive gap fees until:

  • 5 November for all services in Melbourne and regional Victoria locations in lockdown
  • 26 October for OSHC services in regional Victoria.

All services in the ACT can waive gap fees until:

  • 25 October for Centre Based Day Care, Family Day Care and In Home Care
  • 1 November for OSHC.

See COVID-19 support by region for more information on who can waive gap fees.

Services directed to close

Services directed to close by a local authority because of COVID-19 can waive gap fees until 31 December 2021.

General information about waiving gap fees

Families who receive CCS must make a co-contribution to their child care fees under Family Assistance Law. They do this by paying the difference between the provider’s fee and the CCS amount. This is known as the gap fee.

Gap fee waiving helps parents keep their children enrolled without having to pay for a service they are not using.

Services can choose to waive gap fees when in a hotspot, either in full or partially, but are not required to unless they are receiving business continuity payments. Charging practices are a business decision for individual services. 

Providers should contact their third-party software provider for help processing gap fee waivers. 

Absences

Services and families located in a COVID-19 hotspot (defined above) can access additional allowable absences if the hotspot extends for more than 7 days.  

Families can use these absences even if they have not used up their 42 days of allowable absences.

The absences will be available from the first day of the hotspot until the end of the hotspot.

If the hotspot extends for more than 7 days, the Child Care Subsidy System will automatically assess any absences claimed during that period as emergency additional absences and backdate those absences as required. There may be a delay doing this for families in a hotspot, but where the service is not.  

Families are also eligible for additional allowable where the state restricts access to child care from 10 October. For OSHC services, additional allowable absences are available until primary school children can return to face to face learning. 

Families in NSW can access additional allowable absences until:

  • 18 October for Centre Based Day Care, Family Day Care and In Home Care
  • 25 October for OSHC.

Some families in Victoria under lockdown can access additional allowable absences until:

  • 5 November for all services in Melbourne and regional Victoria locations in lockdown
  • 26 October for OSHC services in regional Victoria.

Families in the ACT can access additional allowable absences until:

  • 25 October for Centre Based Day Care, Family Day Care and In Home Care
  • 1 November for OSHC.

See regions that can access additional allowable absences.

Active enrolment period extensions

Under Family Assistance Law, enrolments automatically end when a child does not physically attend care for 14 weeks.

To prevent this from happening, when a region has been in COVID-19 hotspot (defined above) for 10 weeks we will let you know what you need to do.

Learn what to do to maintain enrolments in Greater Sydney.
Learn what to do to maintain enrolments in Melbourne.

Ending enrolments

When a child’s enrolment ends, we don’t usually pay Child Care Subsidy (CCS) for any days after the last day the child physically attends.

This rule won’t apply when an enrolment ends during a COVID-19 hotspot of more than 7 days, from 12 July 2021.

Learn what to do if a child’s enrolment ends during a COVID-19 hotspot.

If you follow these steps we will pay back CCS where debts have been raised after 12 July. You must pass this on to the family if you have raised the debt with them.

General support

Generally, services can access the following provisions:

Support for families

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

Families can search for child care services near them through Starting Blocks or Child Care Finder.

Service closures

You need to 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.

COVID-19 lockdowns

Use the COVID-19 restriction checker to learn about any current restrictions in your area.

Stay up to date with as well with your official state and territory COVID-19 response website:

Health information

The current health advice is that services should continue to remain open unless otherwise directed, with risk mitigation measures in place.

The Australian Government Department of Health has details on safe hygiene practices, including an online infection control training module.

COVID-19 vaccinations

It's important to get information about COVID-19 vaccines in Australia from a trusted source. Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines on the Department of Health website.

Stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 vaccine requirements in your area on your state or territory COVID-19 response website:

Business.gov.au has information about COVID-19 vaccinations and your business.

Services Australia has resources to help your staff and families get proof of their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Previous support packages

The Australian Government implemented a Relief Package, Transition Package and Recovery Package to help the early childhood education and care sector manage the impact of COVID-19.  

Payments under these packages have ended.

Read more about these packages.

Announcements

We regularly update our website with information on COVID-19 restrictions, what this means for child care in affected states and territories, and support we offer.

See our announcements page

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 Provider Entry Point or through your third-party software. 

You should also subscribe to communications from us.

If you have questions regarding business continuity payments email ECECviabilitysupportpackage@dese.gov.au.