Early Childhood Education and Care COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

The Child Care Subsidy recommenced on 13 July 2020, alongside a number of new measures to assist the sector manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This page provides answers to questions you may have on these measures.

For information on the additional supports available in areas of Victoria experiencing Stage 3 and Stage 4 restrictions, please visit COVID-19 restrictions and the Early Childhood Education and Care Sector.

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Arrangements following the end of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package

The end of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package

When did the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package end?

The Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package (Relief Package) was extended until 12 July 2020 to continue to keep services viable and to provide care for families of essential workers and vulnerable children. The Relief Package was originally scheduled to end on 28 June 2020. This meant providers received an additional two weeks of payments.

What arrangements are in place now the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package has ended?

From 13 July 2020, the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) recommenced, along with a range of new measures to support the sector and its families through the transition, including an eased activity test for families and a new Transition Payment for providers.

To ensure Government support is appropriately targeted, JobKeeper ceased on 20 July 2020 for employees of a CCS approved provider operating a child care service. Employees include all staff within the organisation — including all educators, centre directors and managers, administration staff, cooks and cleaners.

In recognition that this is a transition period from the Relief Package, all approved early childhood education and care providers will receive a Transition Payment, instead of JobKeeper, for the period 13 July 2020 to 27 September 2020.

In addition, families who have had their hours of activity reduced as a result of COVID-19, will be able to advise Centrelink they meet the requirements to access 100 hours of subsidised child care, per child, per fortnight, for up to 12 weeks.

This can be done through their Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app from 13 July 2020. 

These arrangements mean that from 13 July 2020, providers again received CCS payments on behalf of families, and parents returned to making their co-contribution to child care fees.

From 13 July 2020, all requirements of Family Assistance Law apply.

When do the measures in the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package cease?

The following components of the Relief Package will no longer be in effect as of the following dates:

  • applications for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments ceased on 20 June 2020
  • Relief Package ceased on 12 July 2020
  • the 62 allowable absence days per child ceased on 30 June 2020. However, there are 42 allowable absence days in the 2020/21 financial year and an additional 30 allowable absence days for children in Victoria
  • With Child Care Subsidy recommenced from 13 July 2020, providers are obliged to recover gap fees as usual unless waived by the service, in specific circumstances, for COVID-19 reasons. Unlimited, additional absence days can be claimed for COVID-19 related reasons, without the need for medical evidence, until 31 December 2020.

What if our early childhood education and care service is required to close due to COVID-19, or a flood, fire or other local emergency?

Child Care Subsidy payments recommenced from 13 July 2020. Services directed to shut down due to COVID-19, a flood, fire or other local emergency should follow standard processes for activating a period of local emergency. Activating a period of local emergency will allow families access to additional absences where children have already used their initial allowance of 42 absence days per child, per financial year.

Each state and territory have their own rules around when and how communities should protect themselves during a local emergency. For COVID-19 related closures, direction to close may come from the health department, but it may come from the state regulatory authority.

Services that need to temporarily close for COVID-19 related reasons must now also report closures (and re-openings) via your third party software or the Provider Entry Point (PEP)

You must report your service closure and re-opening in a timely manner, clearly stating the reason for the closure to the following authorities within 24 hours to:

  1. Your state or territory regulatory authority
  2. The Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment in your state or territory (contact details below) AND
  3. Via your third party software or via Operational Details in the PEP.

Please contact your software provider if you need assistance reporting a closure via your third party software program.

Contact details for state and territory offices of the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment:

Transition Payments

What are the new Transition Payments?

In recognition of the transition period after the Relief Package, all approved early childhood education and care providers will receive a Transition Payment, instead of JobKeeper, for the period 13 July 2020 to 27 September 2020.

Transition Payments are 25 per cent of the services’ fee revenue or the existing hourly rate cap, whichever is lower, in the relevant reference period. This is the same reference period used during the Relief Package, and for most services will be for the period 17 February to 1 March 2020.

A different Transition Payment rate will apply for services in metropolitan Melbourne.

For more information see the Transition Payment webpage.

JobKeeper – Eligibility

My organisation delivers both Child Care Subsidy (CCS) approved and non-CCS services. Are my employees who deliver CCS approved services still eligible for JobKeeper? Updated 20/08/2020

No. Where an organisation delivers both CCS approved and non-CCS services, employees working in the CCS service will not be eligible for JobKeeper from 20 July 2020. This includes all support staff, for example administrative staff, centre directors and managers, gardeners, cooks, cleaners, researchers and advocacy staff.

Where an organisation has staff working across both CCS and non-CCS services within the organisation (for example, administrative support staff), the organisation must assess if an employee’s duties relate principally to the delivery of CCS.

My service delivers both Child Care Subsidy (CCS) approved and non-CCS approved education and care and non-child care services. Are my employees who deliver non-CCS approved services still eligible for JobKeeper?

Yes. JobKeeper ceased on 20 July 2020 for employees of a CCS approved service. Employees working in organisations that deliver a mix of approved child care and other services, that are not working in delivering a CCS approved service, remain eligible for JobKeeper.

Labour Hire Staff are not employed directly by the approved provider and may remain eligible for JobKeeper. These employees should not have been included in monthly declarations submitted by the provider, and no further action is required.

Are staff working for a provider that delivers vacation care only still eligible for JobKeeper?

No. All staff working for a provider that delivers vacation care only receiving JobKeeper will no longer be eligible for JobKeeper from 20 July 2020.

Can a provider reject their Transition Payment Grant offer in order to claim JobKeeper for all staff?

No. A provider who rejects their Transition Payment Grant offer is not able claim JobKeeper for their employees. From 20 July 2020, providers are ineligible to claim JobKeeper on behalf of themselves (if they are a sole trader) or their employees.

Sole traders/independent contractors

What is the definition of a sole trader/independent contractor?

A sole trader is an individual running a business. They own and manage the business, and both the individual and the business are a single entity.

A contractor runs their own business and sells their services to others, unlike employees who work in someone else’s business. Contractors are sometimes called independent contractors, sub-contractors or subbies.

More information can be found at business.gov.au.

I am a Family Day Care (FDC)/ In Home Care (IHC) provider, are my employees still eligible for JobKeeper?

No. JobKeeper ceased on 20 July 2020. Approved providers are responsible for advising the Australian Taxation Office where employees are no longer eligible.

This means that employees that are principally involved in the operation of a child care service are not eligible for JobKeeper from 20 July 2020.

If you have accepted an offer of a Transition Payment, you and your employees are required to meet all the relevant conditions in the Transition Payment Guidelines. This means that you (the provider) will take all reasonable steps to ensure that sole trader/ independent contractor educators are aware that the intent is they will not receive JobKeeper while you receive the Transition Payment.

Labour Hire Staff are not employed directly by the approved provider and may remain eligible for JobKeeper. These employees should not have been included in monthly declarations submitted by the provider, and no further action is required.

What are the reasonable steps an FDC/IHC Provider should take to ensure that educators who are sole traders or independent contractors are aware that the intent is they will not receive JobKeeper? 

Reasonable steps include informing all educators in writing of the provider’s receipt of the Transition Payments grant and notify educators of the terms and conditions attached relating to the grant payment. 

It is reasonable for the provider to request all educators acknowledge the provider’s advice in relation to Transition Payment terms and conditions, this could be done by confirmation email and/or written acknowledgements. 

I am a Family Day Care/In Home Care Educator currently receiving JobKeeper. Does my eligibility cease? 

Family Day Care educators who are sole traders or independent contractors may still be eligible to receive JobKeeper under the Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Amendment Rules (No. 5) 2020, however, where an approved Family Day Care Provider or In Home Provider has accepted a Transition Payment offer, its educators should not continue to receive JobKeeper while the Provider is in receipt of the Transition Payment.  

It is a condition of the approved provider’s Transition Payment Agreement that they take all reasonable steps to ensure that their educators who are sole traders and independent contractors are aware that the intent is that they will not receive JobKeeper while they are in receipt of the Transition Payment.

Can a provider reject their Transition Payment Grant offer to allow their sole trader/independent contractor educators claim JobKeeper? Updated 12/08/2020

Yes. Some sole traders and contractors retain JobKeeper eligibility. If your educators continue to claim JobKeeper you must reject or withdraw from the Transition Grant agreement as you will no longer meet the eligibility requirements.

Further information about changes to JobKeeper can be found on the ATO website.

I am a sole trader/independent contractor educator and my provider is receiving the Transition Payment. Is my provider required to pass the transition payment on to me? Updated 12/08/2020

Providers who took up the Transition Payment Grant offer are responsible for the administration of the payment, including decisions on how to apply payment amounts to their business. This is not determined by the Department and is an individual business decision.

However, the Employment Guarantee reflects the department’s and the community’s expectation that services will look after their educators and their staff, permanent and casual. The Transition Payment and return to full Child Care Subsidy (including the ability to charge fees) have replaced the Relief Payments and JobKeeper, and is supplemented by extra support for Victoria and Melbourne. These measures should be used to support educators and employees and should be passed on through wages and payments.

As a result of the return to regular Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) arrangements since 13 July 2020, along with the requirement for families to pay the gap fee, educators should see their income normalise.

Activity Test

Who benefits from the eased activity test requirements?

From 13 July 2020 to 4 October 2020, individuals who can no longer engage in the same number of hours of work, training, study or other activity recognised by the Child Care Subsidy activity test immediately prior to the COVID-19 crisis, can advise Services Australia they meet the requirements to access 100 hours of subsidised child care, per child, per fortnight for up to 12 weeks.

This can be done through their Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app. 

Fees

Can I waive gap fees if a child is absent due to COVID-19?

A key principle and requirement under Family Assistance Law is that all parents who receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) should make a co-contribution to their child care fees. The co-contribution (or gap fee) is the total of the fees the parent is liable to pay for sessions of care minus the amount of CCS paid in respect of those fees and sessions.

As CCS payments recommenced from 13 July 2020, providers are obliged to recover gap fees as usual.

From 13 July until 31 December 2020, services open and located in an area of Stage 3 or higher – ‘stay at home’ restrictions in Victoria are able to waive families’ out of pocket fees where a child is not attending due to COVID-19, and an absence is recorded.

Centre Based Day Care and Outside School Hours Care services are able to waive the gap fee in these circumstances. However, given the different care settings and fees, if In Home Care and Family Day Care providers believe their service or families need this assistance they should apply to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment by emailing childcareintegrity@dese.gov.au. They will first undergo a compliance check.

Areas subject to Stage 3 or higher – ‘stay at home’ restrictions are listed at vic.gov.au

Can I waive gap fees if my service is closed due to COVID-19?

Until 31 December 2020, while a service is closed as a result of a public health directive, they are permitted to waive families’ out of pocket fees.

What is the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) hourly rate cap for the 2020-21 financial year? 

The hourly rate caps are the maximum hourly rate used to calculate families’ CCS for each service type. The hourly rate caps are adjusted annually in accordance with CPI.

From 13 July 2020, the CCS hourly rate cap are:

  • $12.20 for Centre Based Day Care
  • $11.30 for Family Day Care
  • $33.17 for In Home Care
  • $10.67 for Outside School Hours Care. 

Read more information in the Child Care Subsidy rates from 13 July 2020 fact sheet.

Information for families

How much CCS can I get? 

How much CCS a family can get is based on their individual circumstances. You can find information about eligibility and how much CCS families can get on the Services Australia website.

How can eligible families get the 100 hours activity test result?

Temporary changes to the activity test have been made to help families impacted by COVID-19 to get back into their workforce participation activities, for up to 12 weeks from 13 July 2020 to 4 October 2020.

During this period, families can access up to 100 hours of subsidised child care, per child, per fortnight where they now have a reduced number of hours of work, training, study or other recognised activity, compared to their activity level prior to COVID-19. 

For example, prior to COVID-19, a single person worked 30 hours per fortnight, entitling them 72 hours per fortnight, but now works 15 hours per fortnight entitling them to 36 hours per fortnight. From 13 July 2020, this person can apply to Services Australia through their Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app and be entitled to 100 hours of subsidised care, per child, per fortnight.

This is also available for two-parent families, where one or both parents have reduced activity compared to their activity level prior to COVID-19, and both parents are still engaging in at least eight hours of recognised activity per fortnight.  

What CCS rate will apply if I am eligible for 100 hours of subsidised care?

The percentage of subsidy a family is entitled to is based on combined annual family income. Families earning $69,390 or less receive the maximum CCS rate of 85 per cent of the actual fee charged, or of the relevant hourly rate cap (whichever is lower). As family income increases the rate of subsidy decreases, reaching zero per cent at $353,680. Families with incomes at or above this threshold have no CCS entitlement. This ensures more financial support is targeted to the families who need it most to access child care.

Can I get 100 hours of CCS per fortnight if I’m doing the same number of hours of recognised activity I did prior to the COVID-19 crisis and I am entitled to less than 100 hours per fortnight? 

No, the CCS activity test results have not changed for individuals who are still engaged in the same number of hours, or were engaged in less than eight hours of recognised activity prior to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Can I get 100 hours of CCS per fortnight if I engaged in less than eight hours of recognised activity prior to the COVID-19 crisis? 

No, the temporary easing of the activity test requirements is only for individuals who had an activity test result of more than zero prior to the COVID-19 crisis and can no longer engage in the same number of hours of recognised activity.

The more hours of recognised activity families do, the more hours of subsidised care they can access, up to a maximum of 100 hours per fortnight for each child. Hours spent engaging in different recognised activities can be combined to determine your entitlement of subsidised hours.

Can my family now receive 100 hours per fortnight, even though prior to the COVID-19 crisis my partner’s lower CCS activity test result meant that my family was entitled to below 100 hours per fortnight?

From 13 July 2020 to 4 October 2020, a couple is entitled to an activity test result of 100 hours, per child, of CCS per fortnight if:

  1. both partners had an activity test result of more than zero; and
  2. either partner can no longer engage in the same number of hours of activity as they did before the COVID-19 crisis.

Otherwise, the existing requirement remains where the hours of subsidised care the partner/couple is entitled to is determined by the person with the lowest number of hours of activity per fortnight.  

Will my child/ren need to meet the immunisation requirements? 

Your child must meet immunisation requirements if you receive the Child Care Subsidy. To meet the requirements, all children must:

If you received CCS and your child stops meeting these requirements, you have 63 days to start meeting them again. If you don’t, your subsidy will stop.

For more information visit the Services Australia website. 

Is there any extra support for families to help them find an early childhood education and care service during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. A national toll free helpline has been set up to assist parents and carers to find an early childhood education and care service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families can call the helpline on 1800 291 041 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (AEST), Monday-Friday (excluding public holidays).

Helpline operators will provide advice for families about early childhood education and care services available in their area during the pandemic.

Families, including essential workers and those with vulnerable children, can also search for early childhood education and child care services online using Starting Blocks or Child Care Finder.

The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) is delivering the helpline on behalf of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. For more information, visit ACECQA.

Where can I find COVID-19 information on preschool and kindergarten?

Preschool is primarily a state and territory responsibility and preschool systems vary across jurisdictions. Because of this, preschool-related information in the context of COVID-19 is provided at a state and territory level. More information for families and parents of preschool and kindergarten children is available at Universal Access to Early Childhood Education.

COVID-19 health advice for providers and services

Who will inform our service if it is required to close?

Closures are a decision that will be made, and advised, by state and territory governments. Usually this is their health department, but it may come from the state regulatory authority.

Services directed to shut down because of COVID-19 should follow standard processes for activating a period of local emergency.

What do I need to do if my service has to temporarily close or has reopened?

Services that need to temporarily close for COVID-19 related reasons must now also report closures (and re-openings) via your third party software or the Provider Entry Point (PEP).  

You must report your service closure and re-opening in a timely manner, clearly stating the reason for the closure to the following authorities within 24 hours:

  1. Your state or territory regulatory authority
  2. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment in your state or territory (contact details below) AND
  3. Via your third party software or via Operational Details in the PEP.

Please contact your software provider if you need assistance reporting a closure via your third party software program.

Contact details for state and territory offices:

Is it safe for my service to stay open?

Continuing essential services such as child care, while it is safe to do so, is crucial to enabling parents, including health care professionals, to continue to work and support the broader community during these uncertain times. It also reduces the reliance on alternative care arrangements such as grandparents or elderly relatives who are typically at higher risk of COVID-19. 

Early childhood education and care services should follow the advice from their state or territory governments on matters related to COVID-19. Their advice and directions are informed by the expert medical advice of Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

The current clear advice of health officials is that services should continue to remain open unless otherwise directed, with risk mitigation measures as outlined in the AHPPC statement below.

Read the statement from the AHPPC about COVID-19 in children and early childhood education and care.

What hygiene measures do services need to adopt?

For information on safe hygiene practices to help stop the spread of COVID-19, services are encouraged to contact their state regulatory authority or visit the Department of Health website.

It is important for everyone to continue practicing good hygiene at all times to prevent the virus spreading. This includes:

  • exclusion of unwell staff, children and visitors
  • reduce mixing of children by separating cohorts (including the staggering of meal and play times)
  • enhanced personal hygiene for children, staff and parents
  • excursions other than to local parks should be discouraged
  • influenza vaccination for children, staff and parents.

There may need to be consideration of alternative arrangements for highly vulnerable children.

Services are also encouraged to download and display this COVID-19 related poster, as a reminder to families and staff to help minimise the risk of COVID-19.

The Australian Government Department of Health has an online infection control training module that covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19.

What about physical distancing? 

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has reviewed the physical distancing requirements for early childhood education and care services and determined that the ‘venue density rule’ of no more than one person per four square metres is not appropriate or practical in early childhood education and care services, nor is maintaining 1.5m between children. Read the statement from the AHPPC.

Safe Work Australia (SWA) has also updated their advice for services, explaining that children are not to be included in any calculations of four square metres per person, however employers are reminded these principles should be adhered to for adults in services, including visitors. Read the statement from SWA.

Child Enrolments, Attendance and Absences

What is the child care absence policy in response to COVID-19?

Until 31 December 2020, CCS can be paid for additional absences for COVID-19 related reasons without the need for medical evidence. Families can only access additional absences where children have already used their initial allowance of 42 absence days per child, per financial year.

Until 31 December 2020, a service may waive a families’ out-of-pocket fees while a service is closed as a result of a public health directive.

Until 31 December 2020, services open and located in an area of Stage 3 or higher – stay at home’ restrictions in Victoria are able to waive families’ out-of-pocket fees where a child is not attending due to COVID-19 and an absence is recorded.

All Victorian families (as a result of Stage 3 and Stage 4 restrictions) will receive an additional 30 days, or six full weeks, of allowable absences from child care in the 2020-21 financial year. By increasing the number of allowable absence days, the Government can continue to pay its contribution to services through the CCS. This will guarantee revenue to child care services through the Government’s CCS contribution even where children are not attending or are not permitted to attend care.

From 13 July 2020, families can receive CCS for absences up to seven days before a child’s first, and after a child’s last physical attendance at a service, where they have been booked in for care, for any of the following reasons:

  • any of the additional absence reasons
  • the child, the individual who cares for the child, the individual’s partner or another person with whom the child lives is ill (no medical certificate required if the child has not used 42 absence days)
  • the service has changed ownership
  • the usual service is closed and the child is attending a different service under the same provider
  • a family tragedy (a major event including the death of an immediate family member) has occurred, or
  • the enrolment ceased incorrectly.

Absences were not counted during the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package period (from 6 April to 12 July 2020) as providers were not required to submit session reports.

What if I need to amend a session report for a session of care prior to 6 April 2020?

Providers can submit or amend session reports from 13 July 2020 for periods prior to 6 April 2020 until 9 August 2020. From 10 August 2020, the CCSS will be closed for the 2019–20 financial year. These session reports need to be accurate and finalised as they are essential for balancing (reconciling) family CCS entitlements after the end of the financial year.

Session reports will not be able to be submitted to the CCSS for the period 6 April 2020 to 12 July 2020, however services are expected to keep attendance records for this period. The Relief Package payments will be quarantined from the reconciliation process and will not be subject to parents’ end of year balancing or be counted under the amount of CCS paid to the provider.

In Home Care

Can In Home Care (IHC) be used by families whose children are unable to go to school or access their regular child care arrangements due to COVID-19?

IHC is a specific type of care that is targeted to families who meet the IHC eligibility criteria.

Risk of COVID-19 infection, or an early childhood education and care service or school closing because of COVID-19, would not by itself be a valid reason to access IHC. However, critical workers may be able to access IHC and should contact the relevant IHC Support Agency within their state or territory to discuss their requirements.  

Inclusion Support Program

My service receives funding from the Inclusion Support Program to support the inclusion of children with additional needs. How does my service claim Inclusion Development Fund (IDF) payments through the Inclusion Support Portal with the recommencement of CCS?

The Inclusion Support Program (ISP) has continued to operate during the COVID-19 period to support services to include children with additional needs alongside their typically developing peers.

Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services have utilised a system workaround in the Inclusion Support (IS) Portal to claim Inclusion Development Fund (IDF) subsidy during the closure of the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS) and operation of the ECEC Relief Package. With the return to Child Care Subsidy (CCS) from 13 July 2020, the claiming arrangements for IDF will also return to usual arrangements:

  • For care provided during the ECEC Relief Package (6 April to 12 July 2020), claims for IDF subsidy to be submitted as ‘non-face-to-face hours’ for all hours, to allow claims to be processed without reference to attendance records in CCSS.
  • For care provided from 13 July 2020, claims for IDF subsidy are to be submitted as per usual practice, as ‘face-to-face hours’ and ‘allowable non-face-to-face hours’, which refers to attendance records in CCSS.

For more information on ISP and IDF claim processes please visit the Inclusion Support Program webpage or contact the Inclusion Development Fund Manager (IDFM) by email idfm@ku.com.au.

Community Child Care Fund

Will Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances grants be available during the Transition Payment period?

The department is not currently accepting CCCF Special Circumstances grant applications. On 3 April 2020 this program was closed to services seeking funding due to COVID-19, in recognition of the support being provided to services under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package from 6 April to 12 July 2020.

The Government is continuing to consider tailored support in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

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