Early Childhood Education and Care COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

As at 8 July 2020

The Australian Government has confirmed the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package will be extended until 12 July 2020. From 13 July 2020, Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy will recommence with the introduction of a number of new measures to support providers and families through this period. For more information see the Minister’s media release and the Arrangements following the end of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package section below.

Generating table of contents…

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 will the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package end? 

The Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package (Relief Package) has been 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 means providers will receive an additional two weeks of payments.

What arrangements will be in place when the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package ends? 

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

To ensure Government support is appropriately targeted, JobKeeper will cease from 20 July 2020 for employees of a CCS approved provider, and for sole traders 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 will once again receive CCS payments on behalf of families, and parents will return to making their co-contribution to child care fees.

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

When will 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 ceases on 12 July 2020
  • the 62 initial absence days per child cease on 30 June 2020. There will be 42 initial absence days in the 2020/21 financial year
  • With Child Care Subsidy recommencing from 13 July 2020, providers are obliged to recover gap fees as usual
  • additional absence days to be claimed for COVID-19 related reasons without the need for medical evidence — ceases on 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 will recommence 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.

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
    AND
  2. The Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment in your state or territory (contact details below).

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? Updated 03/07/2020

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.

The last two Transition Payments scheduled for September will be brought forward and paid as a one-off payment at the end of the Relief Package, to help services to manage the transition and cash flow.

Will I receive the Transition Payment? Updated 03/07/2020

All CCS approved early childhood education and care service providers that previously received Child Care Subsidy and new providers that were approved during the Relief Package period should have received a Transition Payment. The same arrangements will apply to privately run services, those providers operated by state, territory and local governments, and not for profit providers.

In practice, this will mean by now those currently eligible should have received their Transition Payment Grant offer. Subject to when a provider accepted the Grant offer, it is anticipated that the first weekly grant payment will be made on 15 July 2020. If providers have not done so already, they should accept the Grant offer as soon as possible.

Arrangements for vacation care only will be handled separately to the initial Grant offer.

What if I haven't received my Transition Payment Grant offer?  New 03/07/2020

If you are a CCS approved early childhood education and care service provider that previously received Child Care Subsidy or a new provider that was approved during the Relief Package period and you haven’t received an offer yet, please check your junk/spam mail and your details in the Child Care Subsidy System.

If your details are not up to date, please update them in the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or third party software. The following need to be correct to receive your offer and for payments to be made:

  • Provider name
  • Provider email address
  • Service email address
  • Legal entity address
  • Service address
  • Bank details.

Arrangements for vacation care only will be handled separately to the initial Grant offer.

If you need help, see the task card How to View and Update Organisation Details in the PEP or contact your software provider.

After you update your details please contact the CCS Helpdesk on 1300 667 276 or email at ccshelpdesk@dese.gov.au.

What if I didn’t accept my Grant offer by 1 July 2020? New 03/07/2020

If you haven’t accepted your Grant offer please accept via DocuSign as soon as possible.

Subject to when you accepted the Grant offer, the timing of your first weekly grant payment may be affected. It is anticipated that the first weekly payment will be made on 15 July 2020.

Are there any additional conditions on the Transition Payments? 

To receive and maintain the Transition Payment providers must:

  • offer an Employment Guarantee by continuing to employ those employees over the transition period who were working or being paid JobKeeper at the end of the Relief Package
  • cap fees to the level in the relevant Relief Payment reference period.

Providers must also not claim JobKeeper for ineligible employees, or for themselves as JobKeeper eligible business participants. These conditions are in place to protect staff who will move off the JobKeeper payment and help families who may be doing it tough.

Will a decrease in fees constitute a breach of the Transition Payment conditions? New 06/07/2020

No. It is not considered a breach of the Transition Payment conditions if a provider decreases their fees. If a provider decrease fees for a set period of time and then needs to increase fees before the end of the transition period, they can do so as long as the revised fees do not exceed the fees specified in the Relief Payment reference period used to calculate their Transition Payment (for most services this was the fortnight starting 17 Feb 2020).  

Are new services eligible for the Transition Payment? 

New services will be eligible for the Transition Payment where they have been in operation for more than two weeks before 27 September 2020. 

Once a new service has submitted session reports for their first two weeks of service, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment will offer an Australian Government grant for the Transition Payment. Only new services that have a full fortnight of operation before 27 September 2020 can receive a Transition Payment.

Why wasn’t one of my services included in the Transition Payment Grant offer? I received an Exceptional Circumstances Supplementary payment for one of my services – why haven’t they been included in the Transition Payment Grant offer?

Only services that had CCS approval as at 9 June 2020 and had received a baseline Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payment are included in the Grant offer. 

Providers that had service-level applications for baseline Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments approved post 9 June 2020 will receive a variation containing Transition Payment details for these services.

What if my Grant offer contains services that are unapproved or will be unapproved in the Grant Period?

Services that are no longer approved or cancelled post 9 June 2020 may be listed in Grant offers. If Grant offers have been submitted by providers, services deemed to be ineligible under the Transition Payment Grant Guidelines will not receive Transition Payments after the date from which they are deemed ineligible. 

Providers with multiple services, including those that may be deemed ineligible are encouraged to submit offers to ensure unaffected services receive payments in a timely manner. 

What if I have a new service that is not included in the Grant offer?

New services approved for CCS on or after 13 July 2020 will be eligible for the 25 per cent Transition Payment. These services will be dealt with separately and the department will provide further advice in due course. Providers will receive a variation containing Transition Payment details for these services.

My service(s) delivers vacation care. Why haven’t I received my Transition Payment Grant offer for the vacation care service?

Arrangements for vacation care only is yet to be determined and these will be handled separately to the initial Grant offer.

What is the reference period fortnight used to calculate the Transition Payment?

The reference fortnight for the Transition Payment is the fortnight that was used to calculate each service’s baseline Relief Package payment. For most services, this fortnight commenced on 17 February 2020. If a different reference fortnight was used to calculate payments under the Relief Package, then the same reference fortnight will be used to calculate the Transition Payment.

My Grant offer is less than expected. Why? Updated 03/07/2020

Transition Payments are 25 per cent of the services’ fee revenue up to the hourly rate cap, in the relevant reference period, excluding any Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment a service may currently be receiving. 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. If a different reference fortnight was used to calculate payments under the Relief Package, then the same reference fortnight will be used to calculate the Transition Payment.

The terms and conditions of the offer are non-negotiable and no changes will be entered into.

The 25 per cent Transition Payment is less than 50 per cent Relief Payment as it recognises that providers will once again receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) payments on behalf of families, and parents will return to making their co-contribution (or gap fee) to child care fees. The Transition Payment is to maintain the viability of services, in order to support families as they return to the level of work, study or training they were undertaking before COVID-19.

When is the last payment under the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Relief Package? Is there a payment gap between the last payment under the ECEC Relief Package, the resumption of CCS/ACCS payments and the introduction of Transition Payments? New 03/07/2020

The last scheduled payment under the ECEC Relief Package occurred in the week commencing 29 June 2020. To help providers and services manage the transition period and to assist with cash flow, the last two Transition Payments scheduled for September 2020 have been brought forward and will be paid as a one-off advance payment in the week commencing 6 July 2020.

The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) will recommence from 13 July 2020. Providers will once again receive CCS payments on behalf of families, and parents will return to making their co-contribution to child care fees. CCS payments to providers will return to a weekly payment schedule, in accordance with session reports being submitted.

In recognition of the transition period, after the Relief Package, all CCS approved early childhood education and care providers will receive Transition Payments for the period 13 July 2020 to 27 September 2020. Subject to when a provider accepts the conditions of payment, it is anticipated that the first weekly grant payment will be made on 15 July 2020.

Transition Payments will be made each week, in accordance with grant agreements, and providers must ensure compliance with conditions of the agreement to maintain eligibility.

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?

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, 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 will cease from 20 July 2020 for employees of a CCS approved service and for sole traders operating a child care service. Employees working in the education and care sector 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.

I am a Family Day Care (FDC) provider. Am I still eligible for JobKeeper?

Where a FDC provider/educator is a sole trader, from 20 July 2020 they will no longer be eligible for JobKeeper and are responsible for actioning this with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). For more detail, see the Transition arrangements for the end of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package – Information for Family Day Care Providers fact sheet.

For larger organisations that operate a range of employment models the following applies:

  • Independent contractors engaged by an approved provider with an Australian Business Number may be eligible for Jobkeeper this includes FDC and In Home Care educators.
  • Employees that are principally involved in the operation of a child care service are not eligible for JobKeeper. Approved providers are responsible for actioning with the ATO (see ‘Ceasing JobKeeper Payments’ below).
  • 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 FDC 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.

Activity Test

Who benefits from the relaxed 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 after Relief Package payments cease? Updated 08/07/2020

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.

With CCS payments recommencing from 13 July 2020, providers are obliged to recover gap fees as usual. However, if a service is forced to close on public health advice as a result of COVID-19, they are permitted to waive a families’ out of pocket fees until 31 December 2020.

Can services charge families in advance for sessions of care from 13 July 2020?

Fee charging practices, such as whether to charge families in advance for care, are commercial decisions made by child care providers, however, the details of fees charged must be agreed to by families in a Complying Written Arrangement in order for families to be entitled to the Child Care Subsidy (CCS). In addition, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment recommends that providers do not rely on a prediction of hours expected to be used by families, or their CCS entitlement, as family circumstances may have changed over the Relief Package period.

If I receive the Transition Payments can I increase administrative fees? E.g. bonds, or late fees? 

A condition of receiving the Transition Payment is that providers must maintain the same fees charged during the relevant reference period.

The intent of this restriction is to support child care service viability and help families access quality child care without the burden of fee increases while they are increasing their workforce participation activities after the COVID-19 crisis. 

Additionally, providers receiving the Transition Payment should not be changing their service offering or increasing or adding new administrative fees.

The usual service offering generally includes consumable items such as meals, wipes, or art supplies as part of the cost of providing a session of care. For example, if nappies were included as part of the session fee your service usually provided, nappies should continue to be provided without any extra cost to families.

Some services also charge administrative fees. These fees do not form part of the session of care fee that a family’s Child Care Subsidy was calculated on, meaning that services can continue to charge administrative fees, for example, late pick-up fees. However, services are not to increase these fees while receiving the Transition Payments or add new ones that were not listed in a family’s Complying Written Arrangement.

If I receive the Transition Payments, can I increase the fees for children attending under an Organisational Agreement or Relevant Agreement? 

No. As a condition of receiving the Transition Payments, services must maintain the same fees charged during the relevant reference period, until 27 September 2020. 

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 will increase to:

  • $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.

Attendance/Enrolments

When do I recommence submitting session reports? 

The ability to submit session reports through to the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS) will recommence from 13 July 2020. Session reports cannot be submitted to the CCSS for the period 6 April 2020 to 12 July 2020, including after 12 July 2020.

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

Providers will be able to submit or amend session reports from 13 July 2020 for periods prior to 6 April 2020.

Session reports will not be able to be submitted to the Child Care Subsidy System 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. 

What are the new Allowable Absences Provisions that take effect on 13 July 2020 (and contained in the Secretary’s Rule that was registered on Friday 5 June 2020)? 

This amendment was requested by the sector, and was scheduled to take effect from 21 September 2020, but has now been brought forward to 13 July 2020 to coincide with the start of the 2020/21 Child Care Subsidy (CCS) year.

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.

Will enrolments be ceasing due to the ‘14 week rule’? (They’re due to cease the week before Child Care Subsidy (CCS) resumes and this could mean services have to create new enrolments and there may be absences at the start of care)

A $0 session of care will be recorded on Sunday 12 July 2020 for every CCS enrolment current at that time (this is in addition to the $0 session of care recorded on Monday 6 April 2020 at the commencement of the Relief Package). Families will see this in their myGov account, and it will show in the Provider Entry Point and third party software with the note “COVID-19 System Update”. Families do not need to do anything or contact Centrelink. This will not have any impact on a family’s entitlement. By recording this session of care, we are ensuring that enrolments remain current for any family unable to immediately return to care when CCS resumes.

It’s important to note that the 14 week rule and absences before and after care still apply. Therefore, services should determine families’ intentions relating to ongoing care as early as possible rather than continue to record absences from 13 July 2020 onwards.

Preparing for transition – providers and services

What do providers need to do to prepare for these changes? Updated 03/07/2020

Firstly, providers should ensure enrolment information is up to date.

Providers should have accepted their Transition Payment Grant offer. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (the department) established an online process, using DocuSign, for providers to review and agree to this offer. Please ensure you have completed the acceptance offer correctly. 

Subject to when a provider accepts the Grant offer, it is anticipated that the first weekly grant payment will be made on 15 July 2020. Transition Payments will be paid into the bank account currently nominated for a provider’s service in the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS).  Providers are responsible for ensuring their bank account details in the CCSS are correct. 

To allow the department to process the first grant payment, which will be made in the week of 13 July 2020, providers will need to accept the offer by 5.00 pm AEST 1 July 2020. Providers will generally be paid weekly and in advance. However, the first Transition Payment will not be received by providers until 17 July 2020 at the earliest.

What do vacation care providers need to do to prepare for these changes?

Recognising the unique situation of vacation care, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (the department) will work with vacation care only providers directly to manage the process.

Vacation care providers will receive an email to offer an Australian Government grant for a Transition Payment relevant to the vacation periods falling between 13 July and 27 September 2020. 

The department has established an online process, using DocuSign, for providers to review and agree to this offer. The email will outline how to review and sign the offer. 

Following return of the signed grant agreement, Transition Payments will be paid into the bank account currently nominated for a provider’s service in the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS). Providers are responsible for ensuring their bank account details in the CCSS are correct. 

Are any arrangements necessary for providers who are running Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) and vacation care services over the July 2020 school holiday period?

There are no special arrangements necessary for OSHC and vacation care providers operating over the weeks when the Relief Package ends and the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) resumes. All child care providers are encouraged to ensure their services are ready to resume under the CCS and Additional Child Care Subsidy arrangements when the Relief Package ends on Sunday 12 July 2020. 

What happens if there is a change of ownership during the grant agreement period?

If any service changes ownership during the course of the grant agreement period the grantee is responsible for informing the new owner of the grant agreement and obligations, and transferring any payments made to the former owner to the new owner, until arrangements can be made to commence payment to the new owner.

Transition Payments payable to providers during the transition period will not be adjusted to account for the transfer of services between providers (such as sale of a service by one provider to another). Any adjustment providers may make in transfer agreements for Transition Payments payable in respect of transferred services is a private commercial matter and the Commonwealth will not engage in any disputes between providers about such matters.

How should services prepare families for these changes?

Services should encourage families to check their details are up to date in their Centrelink online account through myGov or Express Plus Centrelink mobile app. This includes their family income estimate for 2020-21.

The process for families to enrol their child in a child care service has not changed with the introduction of the Relief Package payments. Families have been encouraged to continue any new claims for Child Care Subsidy (CCS) during this period. New enrolments should be reviewed and confirmed by families via their Centrelink online account, to ensure that they are CCS eligible prior to 13 July 2020.

Preparing for transition – families

What do families need to do for their Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) to start again? Updated 07/07/2020

When the regular CCS arrangements resume from 13 July 2020, families will again need to pay the gap fee (the child care fee after Government subsidies).

Families who were getting CCS before 6 April 2020, won't need to do anything for their subsidy to start again, as long as they have remained eligible and enrolled. Their CCS will start again automatically on 13 July 2020.

If a family’s circumstances have changed (for example income level or contact information), they should update their details with Centrelink as soon as possible. This can be done through their Centrelink online account through myGov or the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.

If a family was not previously accessing child care they should put in a claim for CCS as soon as possible. If families continue using child care from 13 July 2020 but aren't receiving CCS, they will need to pay full fees. Claims for CCS can only be backdated for up to 28 days from the day the claim is lodged.

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 much Child Care Subsidy (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 8 hours of recognised activity per fortnight.  

What Child Care Subsidy (CCS) rate will be applicable if I am eligible for 100 hours 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 Child Care Subsidy (CCS) per fortnight if I’m doing the same number of hours of recognised activity I did prior to the COVID-19 crisis and am entitled to less than 100 hours per fortnight? 

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 Child Care Subsidy (CCS) per fortnight if I engaged in less than eight hours of recognised activity prior to the COVID-19 crisis? 

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 Child Care Subsidy (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 now 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. 

Information for families

What are the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments?

The payments under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package support child care services (including Centre Based Day Care, Family Day Care, Outside School Hours Care and In Home Care). Due to the impact of COVID-19, the early childhood education and care sector reported significant decreases in attendance and enrolments in early March 2020. These payments will ensure services can remain open, and families who need it can access care.

The payments are made in lieu of any Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy.

What conditions must be met by services to receive payments?

The service must meet the following conditions to continue to receive these payments:

  • the service remains open and provides sessions of care to at least one child, unless closed on public health advice or advice of a state regulatory authority for COVID-19 health and safety reasons 
  • families and carers are not charged fees relating to sessions of care provided to children during the period the service receives the payments 
  • priority of access is given to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children; and previously enrolled children
  • the service must comply with all other Family Assistance Law and National Law obligations.

Additionally, services must not increase these fees for the duration of the Relief Package, and must not add any new fees that were not listed in a family’s Complying Written Arrangement prior to 6 April 2020.

Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments are discretionary payments under Family Assistance Law, and failure to comply with the conditions can result in the payments being reduced or suspended.

Do services have to accept new enrolments and increased attendance where parents request it?

Services are required to prioritise care to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and children with existing enrolments as part of the conditions of the Relief Package. Where services choose to accept new enrolments and increase attendance where parents request it, they had the option to apply for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments to meet the demand for child care up to their service’s full capacity taking into account staff, resources and health and safety issues.

Families and services can report concerns about services not adhering with the conditions of the Relief Package to the department by phoning 1800 664 231 or by emailing tipoffline@dese.gov.au. For example, if a family believes a service has capacity to provide more care but is electing not to do so, or that a service is not prioritising essential workers in offering that care, they can and are contacting this line.

Can my service change their service offering in relation to meals, nappies or late fees?

The intent of the weekly payments is to enable access to free child care for families of the priority groups like essential workers, during the COVID-19 crisis. 

While services receive payments under the Relief Package, they should not be changing their service offer and/or increasing or adding new administrative fees.

The usual service offering generally includes consumable items such as meals, wipes, or art supplies as part of the cost of providing a session of care. For example, if nappies were included as part of the session fee your service usually provided, nappies should continue to be provided without any extra cost to families.

Some services also charge administrative fees. These fees do not form part of the session of care fee that a family’s Child Care Subsidy was calculated on, meaning that services can continue to charge administrative fees, for example, late pick-up fees. However, services are not to increase these fees for the duration of the Relief Package or add new ones that were not listed in a family’s Complying Written Arrangement.

The department can take compliance action against services not meeting the conditions of the payments. Information about such practices can be directed to the department’s tip off line 1800 664 231 or emailing tipoffline@dese.gov.au

Do both parents/carers need to be essential workers to be given priority access?

No. As long as one parent is an essential worker their child/ren should be prioritised for care.  

What if I am working from home?

Care should still be made available where parents or carers are working from home noting that priority of access must be given to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and previously enrolled children.

What can I do if my service is refusing care for my child?

The Government is relying on services to provide care to as many children as they can, giving priority to essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children.

However, each service is dealing with new circumstances and having to reconsider available staff, health and other business challenges. This means each service has to make decisions on its own capacity to offer care, based on these new considerations.

While repeated, serious breaches of conditions of the Relief Package may result in a service losing access to payments under the Relief Package, the significant impact of COVID-19 on operating arrangements will mean some services will not be able to continue to offer the same care to all families. 

Where services had increased demand and felt they cannot afford to meet it based on current levels of support, an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment was available. This means if a service has more children attending now than it had during the reference period it could have applied to receive a higher payment.

If you are an essential worker with need for increased care hours, and have been refused by your service, you can contact the department’s tip off line on 1800 664 231 or emailing tipoffline@dese.gov.au.  

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.

What should I expect when commencing a new enrolment?

The process for families to enrol their child in a child care service has not changed with the introduction of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments.

Your child care provider will help you to enrol your child under the care arrangement that best suits your circumstances. For most families there are three types of care arrangements available:

  • Complying Written Arrangement — for families who intend to receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) or Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) once the Relief Package payments cease. 
  • Relevant Arrangement — for families who would otherwise not be eligible for CCS or ACCS.
  • Organisation Arrangement — if a third party pays your child care fees.

To help your provider enrol your child, it is particularly important you provide the correct Customer Reference Number (CRN) and date of birth for both yourself and your child. 

For any kind of arrangement, your child care provider will submit an enrolment notice, and you will receive a notice from Services Australia requesting you review and check the enrolment details. 

This can be done in your Centrelink Online account through myGov or the Centrelink Express Plus mobile app.

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.

Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package: information for providers and services

What is the new child care payment under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package?

The new payment under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package is a payment to support child care services (including Centre Based Day Care, Family Day Care, Outside School Hours Care and In Home Care) to remain open. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the early childhood education and care sector has reported significant decreases in attendance. These payments will ensure services can remain open, and families who need it can access care.

Weekly payments will be approximately 50 per cent of services' fee revenue or 50 per cent of the existing hourly rate cap, whichever is lower, for sessions of care in the fortnight preceding 2 March 2020 (i.e. Monday 17 February 2020 through to 28 February 2020).

The payments for services providing vacation care only will be calculated on the equivalent of the average weekly amount for the vacation period between Term 3 and Term 4 in 2019 (September–October school holidays).

The payments are made in lieu of any Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy.

Receiving these payments does not preclude your service from accessing other Government initiatives to support businesses.

Will the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments be an ‘opt-in’ measure or are all services required to participate?

Providers can choose to opt out of receiving the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments for one or more of their services. The service/s for which the provider has opted out, will not receive payments under the measure or Child Care Subsidy (CCS) or Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) payments. Providers will need to give notice of the voluntary suspension of CCS approval for any of its services. Providers can do this by writing to their state assessment team and providing the following information:

  • the full legal name and trading name of the provider
  • the unique provider approval number
  • for each service for which the provider requests a suspension — the unique service approval number
  • the reasons why the provider is requesting a suspension
  • the desired period of the suspension
  • the name and contact details for the provider’s representative in respect of the request.

What do I have to do to receive the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payment?

In order to receive the payment, you must:

  • remain open and provide sessions of care to at least one child, unless closed on public health advice or advice by a State Regulatory Authority for COVID-19 health and safety reasons
  • ensure families are not charged a fee, including an out of pocket or gap fee for sessions of care provided
  • continue and prioritise care to essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children
  • continue to record attendance of children
  • where children enrol at a service who otherwise would be considered ‘at risk’ for the purposes of Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) (child wellbeing), services are required to make a referral to an appropriate support agency as per the existing ACCS (child wellbeing) referral requirements
  • comply with all other provider obligations including the National Quality Framework and other relevant conditions of approval under Family Assistance Law.

You do not need to apply. Payments will be made automatically on a weekly basis unless otherwise notified by the department.

How will I receive the payment?

The payment will be paid into your child care service bank account. This is the same bank account that Child Care Subsidy is currently paid into.

What is the calculation method for payments under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package?

The payment will be based on a reference fortnight, and calculated as 50 per cent of the lesser of:

  • the hourly fee for the session of care; or
  • the relevant Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap.

The reference fortnight is as follows:

  • For an Outside School Hours Care Service that provides only vacation care — the fortnight starting on the first Monday of the school holidays between school Term 3 and Term 4 in 2019 in the state or territory in which the service is located.
  • For all other services, it is­ the fortnight starting 17 February 2020.
  • Where a service charged fees for only one week of care during the fortnight starting
    17 February 2020, or in the school holidays between Terms 3 and 4 in 2019, the amount will be calculated on the week in which care occurred and the amount doubled.

Example

A Centre Based Day Care (CBDC) service charges $100 for a 10 hour session of care. Therefore, their hourly fee is $10 per hour ($100 ÷ 10 = $10). As $10 is less than the CBDC hourly rate cap of $11.98, $10 is the amount used.

On the fortnight starting 17 February 2020, the CBDC service had 20 children attending the service. Each child attended 10 sessions of care for the fortnight (or five per week) and were charged $100 for a ten hour session (meaning the hourly fee was $10). For that fortnight, the service’s total fees charged were $20,000 (or $10,000 per week).

The payment this service will receive is worked out below:

  • the hourly payment is $5 ($10 x 50% = $5)
  • $5 hourly payment x 10 hour session = $50 payment per session
  • $50 x 20 children x 5 sessions per week = $5,000 paid per week.

The 50 per cent calculation is derived from a two-week period, but paid weekly. Is the first week payment derived from the 1st sample week and the second week payment derived from 2nd sample week, or is it averaged for the sample fortnight and split out for the weekly payment?

The reference fortnight is as follows:

  • For an Outside School Hours Care Service (OSHC) that provides only vacation care — it is the fortnight starting on the first Monday of the school holidays between school Term 3 and Term 4 in 2019 in the state or territory in which the service is located.
  • For all other services — it is the fortnight starting 17 February 2020.

Note: where a service charged fees for only part of the fortnight starting 17 February 2020, or in the school holidays between Terms 3 and 4 in 2019, an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment would have been made in accordance with these rules.

For example:

  • An OSHC service that operates in New South Wales provides only vacation care. Therefore, their reference period is 30 September 2019 to 13 October 2019.

For example:

  • An OSHC service provides both vacation care and before and after school care. Their reference period is from 17 February 2020 to 1 March 2020.

For example:

  • An OSHC service operating in New South Wales providing only vacation care, charged fees for one week in the school holiday period between Terms 3 and 4 in 2019. However, the reference fortnight for the service does not change, meaning that the base weekly amount for the provider of the service that is calculated under the Rules, would be effectively half of the amount it would be if the service had operated for the full reference fortnight, instead of only one week. However, the provider of the service would have received an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment to adjust for the week.

The payment amount will be determined based on the total fees charged by the service during a reference fortnight and the reference hourly fee (up to hourly rate cap) for a session of care.

For example:

On the fortnight starting 17 February 2020, a Centre Based Day Care service (CBDC) had 20 children attending the service. Each child attended 10 sessions of care for the fortnight (or five per week) and were charged $100 for a 10 hour session (meaning the hourly fee was $10). This example assumes that all of the children were charged the same amount for the same session lengths. For that fortnight, the service’s total fees charged were $20,000 (or $10,000 per week).

The payment this service will receive is worked out below:

  • the service’s hourly reference fee is $10 (because it is lower than the CBDC hourly rate cap)
  • $10 hourly fee x 50 per cent = $5 paid per hour
  • $5 x 10 hour session = $50 paid per session
  • $50 x 20 children x 5 sessions per week = $5,000 paid per week.

For example:

On the fortnight starting 17 February 2020, a CBDC service had 20 children attending the service. Each child attended 10 sessions of care per fortnight (or five per week) and was charged $130 for a 10 hour session (meaning the hourly fee was $13). This example assumes that all of the children were charged the same amount for the same session lengths. For that fortnight, the service’s total fees charged were $26,000 (or $13,000 per week).

The payment is worked out below:

  • the service’s hourly reference fee is $11.98 (because their hourly fee is above the CBDC hourly rate cap at $13)
  • $11.98 x 50 per cent = $5.99 paid in business continuity per hour
  • $5.99 x 10 hour session = $59.90 paid in business continuity per session
  • $59.90 x 20 children x 5 sessions per week = $5,990 paid to the service per week.

The reference fortnight is as follows:

  • For an OSHC service that provides only vacation care — the fortnight starting on the first Monday of the school holidays between school Term 3 and Term 4 in 2019 in the state or territory in which the service is located.
  • For all other services — the fortnight starting 17 February 2020.

Note: where a service charged fees for only one week of care during the fortnight starting 17 February 2020, or in the school holidays between Terms 3 and 4 in 2019, an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment would have been made in accordance with these rules.

For example:

  • An OSHC service that operates in New South Wales provides only vacation care. Therefore, their reference period is 30 September 2019 to 13 October 2019.

For example:

  • An OSHC service provides both vacation care and before and after school care. Their reference period is from 17 February 2020 to 1 March 2020.

For example:

  • An OSHC service operating in New South Wales providing only vacation care, charged fees for one week in the school holiday period between Terms 3 and 4 in 2019. However, the reference fortnight for the service does not change, meaning that the base weekly amount for the provider of the service that is calculated under the Rules would be effectively half of the amount it would be if the service had operated for the full reference fortnight, instead of only one week. However, the provider of the service would have received an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment to adjust for the week.

The reference hourly fee for a session is 50 per cent of the lower of:

  • the hourly fee for the session; or
  • the relevant Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap.

For example:

  • a CBDC service charges $100 for a 10 hour session of care. Therefore, their hourly fee is $10 per hour ($100 ÷ 10 = $10)
  • The CBDC hourly rate cap is $11.98
  • The reference hourly fee is the hourly fee ($10) because it is lower
  • 50 per cent of the hourly session fee is $5 ($10 x 50 per cent = $5).

For example:

  • a CBDC service charges $130 for a 10 hour session of care. Therefore, their hourly fee is $13 per hour ($130 ÷ 10 = $13)
  • The CBDC hourly rate cap is $11.98
  • The reference hourly fee is the CBDC hourly rate cap ($11.98) because it is lower
  • 50 per cent of the hourly reference fee is $5.99 ($11.98 x 50 per cent = $5.99).

Can I ask for a different reference period for my payments to be based on?

No, but a service could have  applied for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments in exceptional circumstances.

How do we respond to families who had previously taken their children out of care for health and safety reasons who now wish to return their child to care?

Under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package, services must prioritise care to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and children who were previously enrolled.

Where services choose to accept new enrolments and increase attendance where parents request it, they could have applied for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments. To be eligible, the service needed to demonstrate that the current level of attendance is higher than the reference period, to meet the demand for child care up to their service’s full capacity.

Can I change my service offering under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package in relation to meals, nappies or late fees?

The intent of the weekly payments is to enable access to free child care for families of the priority groups like essential workers, during the COVID-19 crisis. The weekly payments should be the full amount a provider/service will receive, unless they applied for and met the criteria for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment. Also noting that the Relief Package is complementary to other Government business support payments, like the JobKeeper Payment a provider may receive.

While providers/services receive payments under the Relief Package, they should not be changing their service offer and/or increasing or adding new administrative fees.

A provider’s usual service offering generally includes consumable items such as meals, wipes, or art supplies as part of the cost of providing a session of care. For example, if nappies were included as part of the session fee your service usually provided, nappies should continue to be provided without any extra cost to families.

Some services also charge administrative fees. These fees do not form part of the session of care fee that a family’s Child Care Subsidy was calculated on, meaning that services can continue to charge administrative fees, for example, late pick-up fees. However, services are not to increase these fees for the duration of the Relief Package or add new ones that were not listed in a family’s Complying Written Arrangement.

A condition of a provider/service receiving payments under the Relief Package is that all services continue to meet the provider obligations under Family Assistance Law and there are to be no fees charged for care provided.

The department can take compliance action against services not meeting the conditions of the payments. Information about such practices can be directed to the department’s tip off line 1800 664 231 or emailing tipoffline@dese.gov.au.

Are Relief Package payments available to services that were temporarily closed or not yet open during the reference periods?

Services in this situation would have needed to apply for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment. Unless the other criteria for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment were met, the payment a new service would receive is the lower of 50 per cent of fee revenue or 50 per cent of the hourly rate cap for the enrolments during the period of operation.

Will I still receive payments if my service is directed to close due to COVID-19? Updated 08/07/2020

Services are still eligible to receive payments where a health agency or state or territory regulatory authority has directed a provider to close a service due to COVID-19 related reasons. The department may ask the provider for evidence to support the service’s claim that it has been directed to close.

The Minister’s Rule that permits services to waive families’ out of pocket fees in the event their service is forced to close on public health advice, as a result of COVID-19, will be extended from 30 June 2020 until 31 December 2020.

A provider cannot make the decision to close the service and still be eligible for the payment.

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

If your service is required to temporarily close for any reason you must report the closure and re-opening. Failure to report a re-opening may impact your Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments. 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:  

Contact details for state and territory offices 

What does this payment mean for my third party software?

The department has spoken to all third party software vendors to accommodate these payments. Your third party software often offers additional functionality to assist you with the day to day operations of your service. If you have specific questions about this functionality, or the general usability of your software, the department recommends that you contact your third party software provider directly.

    What about children who were full fee paying previously?

    Children previously paying full fees will have been accounted for in the base payment calculation and can continue to attend at no charge. However, you could have told us about these children if you applied for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment, noting that services should prioritise care to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and children with existing enrolments.

    How will the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments affect families on Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS)?

    The Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments will be made instead of the usual Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) payments.

    If the family’s current ACCS determination continues past the end of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payment period, they will return to their ACCS entitlement. This will be the case for most families receiving ACCS (grandparent).

    To ensure that ACCS (child wellbeing) continues to flow when the system returns to normal, if a family’s ACCS (child wellbeing) determination expires during the period, services will need to apply for a new determination. We encourage providers to submit determinations prior to the resumption of the regular system to avoid any gaps in ACCS (child wellbeing). If a family’s CCS cancels during the payment period they will need to reapply for CCS (and be assessed as eligible) for a service to receive ACCS (child wellbeing) payments when regular payments resume.

    If a family has applied for ACCS (temporary financial hardship), their eligibility will be assessed, and a payment made up to 5 April 2020.

    If a person’s ACCS (transition to work) eligibility expires during the Relief Package period or the person requests to cease the ACCS (transition to work), they will need to apply for ACCS (transition to work) if they meet the eligibility criteria for the payment to recommence on 13 July 2020.

    Will immunisation requirements for children continue?

    Yes. All Child Care Subsidy (CCS) eligibility requirements will continue in place, and all approved providers and services must continue to comply with Family Assistance Law and National Law requirements. This includes the requirement under the CCS for children to meet the Childhood schedule on the Department of Health’s National Immunisation Program Schedule, be on a suitable catch up schedule in line with the Department of Health’s current Australian Immunisation Handbook, or have an approved medical exemption recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register.

    For all care types except In Home Care (IHC), families with children who do not meet the CCS immunisation requirements can attend child care services being supported by payments under the Relief Package where permitted to do so under state or territory regulations. These children must be enrolled under a Relevant Arrangement or Organisation Arrangement.

    For families using IHC, all children attending an IHC service must be CCS eligible. Children who do not meet the CCS immunisation requirements cannot attend IHC child care services.

    How do I stay up to date on the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package?

    As we navigate COVID-19, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment is engaging directly with both providers and services more often. Many contact details are out of date, resulting in providers and services missing out on important information.

    The department encourages providers to update both their provider and each service’s contact details in the Child Care Subsidy System, particularly email addresses. The provider and service email addresses could be the same, but both may need updating.

    You can update your details via the Provider Entry Point (PEP). Guidance is available in the task card How to View and Update Organisation Details in the PEP.

    Alternatively, you can update your details via your third party software. Please contact your software provider if you need assistance updating your details via a third party software program.

    Please also make sure that you have subscribed to receive updates from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

    Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package and the Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment: information for providers and services

    Who is eligible for additional funding?

    Applications for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments closed on 20 June 2020.

    Providers/services could have applied for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment in limited circumstances based on the number of children in attendance. These include but are not limited to the following:

    1. Insufficient reference period or increase in demand
    • services were not operating during the reference period
    • the number of attendances during the reference period is significantly and demonstratively lower than the current number of attendances at the service from 6 April 2020 onwards
    • a service experiences a significantly higher demand for child care for children of essential workers and/or vulnerable and disadvantaged children during the period 6 April 2020 to 12 July 2020.
    1. JobKeeper ineligibility
    • providers that are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment, including non-government schools, large charities/not for profit organisations, but excluding state and local government services
    • Family Day Care (FDC) and In Home Care (IHC) educators that were providing care in the reference period that are not eligible for JobKeeper, but who have registered for an Australian Business Number (ABN) by 1 June 2020.
    • services, excluding state and local government services, that have 30 per cent or more full-time equivalent current employees* who are not eligible for JobKeeper Payment and where the provider or service has not applied for or received another Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment for these employees.

    * 'current employees' refers to those employed by the provider during the reference period and from 18 May 2020 onwards.

    In recognition of the higher costs associated with IHC sessions of care, providers will be eligible for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment of 20 per cent of the weekly payment calculated on the reference fortnight base rate. This payment will be made from 18 May 2020. IHC providers do not need to apply for this payment as it will be made automatically.

    Will Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments be backdated? 

    Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments based on demand will be backdated to the beginning of a relevant four-week period. The first four-week period commenced on 6 April 2020.

    The four-week periods are:

    • Period 1: 6 April 2020 to 3 May 2020
    • Period 2: 4 May 2020 to 31 May 2020
    • Period 3: 1 June 2020 to 12 July 2020*.

    * Period 3 is six weeks in total.

    For example:

    A provider applying on 20 April 2020, that seeks the Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment to be backdated will receive the higher rate from 6 April 2020.

    OR

    A service which applies on 22 May 2020, may have their Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment backdated to the second four-week period which commences on 4 May 2020.

    Note: where applicable, adjustments will be made for those providers who have already received an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment for increased attendance in the first four-week period and are now eligible for monies for week 1 of the period.

    Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments will be backdated until the commencement of the Relief Package on 6 April 2020:  

    • to support providers that are operated by non-government schools and large charities/not-for-profit organisations that are not eligible for JobKeeper Payment

    OR

    • to providers of Family Day Care and In Home Care services, on behalf of their (sole trader contractor) educators who are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment

    Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments made to services who have more than 30 per cent of full-time equivalent employees who are ineligible for JobKeeper will be backdated to 18 May 2020.

    How long will it take to assess my application for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment?

    As each application is assessed on a case by case basis, we are unable to provide an estimated processing time.

    We will endeavour to assess all applications as quickly as possible. Providing a complete application with supporting evidence and all your correct ID and reference numbers will assist in processing your application efficiently. Before lodging your application, we encouraged you to:

    • consider the tips in this FAQ document about completing your application
    • monitor the DESE website for information about upcoming webinars that will provide additional information about completing your application
    • carefully check all identity and registration numbers provided; and
    • ensure you have uploaded evidence to support any statements in relation to any direction or advice to close by a health agency or state regulatory body, eligibility for the JobKeeper Payment, and any increase in the number of children attending that service and/or increase in the number of hours of care.

    How does an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment affect my JobKeeper application?

    For a provider this payment and the base payment under the Relief Package are not considered as revenue for GST purposes. This means providers will be able to show they satisfy the decline in income test for the purposes of the JobKeeper Payment provided they do not have income from other sources, such as being part of a larger entity like a non-government school or a not-for-profit organisation.

    Where some of this revenue is then passed on to Family Day Care and In Home Care educators (based on contractual arrangements between the service and the educator) these monies are considered as revenue for GST purposes. As the educator is unlikely to receive more than 50 per cent of their fee revenue from the provider, they should be able to satisfy the decline in income test for the JobKeeper Payment.

    Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment and JobKeeper ineligibility: information for providers and services

    Applications for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments closed on 20 June 2020.

    How much will services receive under this Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment? 

    Payments will be calculated on a case by case basis and will depend on the numbers of full-time equivalent staff ineligible for JobKeeper who are still employed by the service.  

    How will payments be made? 

    If approved, payments may be made on top of a service’s current weekly base payment and any Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment for increased demand until the end of the Relief Package. A one-off payment may also be made with payments backdated to 18 May 2020.

    COVID-19 health advice for providers and services

    Who will inform our early childhood education and care 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.

    If you close your early childhood education and care service, either voluntarily or as directed by a state or territory regulatory or health authority on public health advice or for other valid health and safety reasons, you must notify your state regulatory authority within 24 hours.

    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 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

    How should services treat new enrolments at their centre? 

    Providers should continue to enter into a Complying Written Arrangement with parents who are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy and record the child’s start date (the day that the parent confirms their agreement to the arrangement) in their third party software or the Provider Entry Point (PEP).

    An enrolment notice should be submitted in the provider’s third party software or the PEP within seven days of entering into a Complying Written Arrangement with the family.

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

    Whether a child is ill or not, including where a child does not attend care as part of the family’s own precautionary measure against potential contact with COVID-19, Child Care Subsidy (CCS) can be paid for up to 62 absence days per child, for the 2019–20 financial year, without the need for families to provide documentation.

    Once a child’s 62 initial absences have been used, if more absences are required for COVID-19 related reasons, CCS can be paid for additional absences claimed without the need for medical evidence. 

    Absences will not be counted during the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package period (commencing 6 April 2020) as session reports will not be submitted. 

    What if a child is absent on their last day of enrolment? 

    If an enrolment ended on or prior to 5 April 2020, and the child was absent on the last day, normal absence rules apply. That is, if an individual has confirmed their child’s last day at a service, but that child does not attend their last booked session(s) of care, no Child Care Subsidy (CCS) will be paid for any days after the child’s last physical attendance at the service.

    If absences are reported in the above circumstances and CCS has been previously paid, these amounts will be recovered from the service once the enrolment ceases.

    If a child was absent on their last day of enrolment in the period between 6 April 2020 and 12 July 2020, the CCS amount which has been paid to the service will not be recovered from the service or the family.

    For example, if an individual ceases their child’s enrolment on 8 May 2020, and the child has been absent for the two weeks immediately prior to this date, the CCS amount which has been paid to the service over the period up to 8 May 2020, will not be recovered from the service or the family.

    From 13 July 2020, CCS will be payable if a child is absent up to seven days before or after an enrolment (including the first/last day of 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
    • the enrolment ceased incorrectly.

    What is the out of pocket fee waiver?

    Ordinarily, when Child Care Subsidy operates, providers are required to recover the out of pocket fees from families, even if the child is absent from care. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the sector has reported significant decreases in attendance. To support families and the sector, for the period 23 March to 5 April 2020, providers were able to waive out of pocket fees for families where a service remained open, but children were absent.

    I have already charged families the gap fee for care provided on or after 23 March 2020. Can I give them a refund?

    It is a business decision for each service whether they choose to charge families a gap fee, or in this case refund the gap fee for children absent from care due to COVID-19. From 23 March 2020 there is no legal obligation for services to charge gap fees for children absent from care, up to and including 5 April 2020 to the remainder of the 2019–20 financial year.

    Am I still expected to record/store the attendance information of children at my service (for example 'in and out times')?

    Yes, you must still record the attendance information, such as in and out times, for children that attend your service. This can either be stored electronically, or by other means. You must also give families statements of sessions of care provided.

    Will my enrolments automatically cease because I am not submitting session reports?

    No. Children enrolled on 5 April 2020 will still be enrolled once the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payment period is over. 

    Providers should encourage families who have withdrawn from their service to re-enrol. By families staying enrolled, they will keep their Child Care Subsidy eligibility so the subsidies will flow again once the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments cease.

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

    After 12 July 2020, providers will be able to submit sessions of care for periods prior to 6 April 2020, and to make resubmissions to correct already submitted sessions.

    These submissions and resubmissions will be monitored to ensure providers remain compliant with legislation.

    Do services have to accept new enrolments and increased sessions where parents request it?

    Services are required to prioritise care to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and children with existing enrolments as part of the conditions of the Relief Package. Where services choose to accept new enrolments and increase attendance where parents request it, they could have applied for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments to meet the demand for child care up to their service’s full capacity taking into account staff, resources and health and safety issues.

    Families and services can report concerns about services not adhering with the conditions of the Relief Package to the department by phoning 1800 664 231 or by emailing tipoffline@dese.gov.au. For example, if a family believes a service has capacity to provide more care but is electing not to do so, or that a service is not prioritising essential workers in offering that care, they can and are contacting this line.

    Can families who do not meet the CCS residency requirements enrol their children to attend a service receiving payments under the Relief Package?

    Yes. Families who do not meet the CCS residency requirements can be enrolled under a Relevant Arrangement or Organisation Arrangement enrolment while payments under the Relief Package are being made, noting however priority for child care places is to be given to essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children.

    Do both parents/carers need to be essential workers to be given priority access?

    No. As long as one parent is an essential worker that would suffice.

    Can families who have children enrolled under a Relevant or Organisational Arrangement attend a service receiving payments under the Relief Package for free?

    Yes, for the duration of the Relief Package.

    Family Day Care and In Home Care

    Can Family Day Care (FDC) and In Home Care (IHC) providers apply for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment for their educators who are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment because they didn’t have an ABN?

    Applications for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments closed on 20 June 2020.

    Providers of FDC and IHC services, who are not run by state or local government, may apply for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments on behalf of contracted sole trader educators.

    To be eligible for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment, the following conditions must be met:

    • educators must be currently contracted to the service and have provided care during the reference period
    • educators must not have had an ABN on 12 March 2020 (those educators with an ABN should apply individually for JobKeeper payments)
    • these educators must have applied for an ABN by 1 June 2020; and
    • only one provider can apply on behalf of each educator (even if they work for more than one service).

    In an application on behalf of contracted sole trader educators, providers will be required to supply either:

    • the educator’s ABN, or 
    • the date of the educator’s application for an ABN and the Australian Taxation Office receipt number.

    Applications without this information cannot be considered. 

    Providers of FDC and IHC services receiving this Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment must pass on the payment in full to their eligible educators.

    Information collected for the purposes of calculating the amount of Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment will be shared with the Australian Taxation Office and Services Australia for verification checking.

    What if a Family Day Care (FDC) or In Home Care (IHC) service has already applied for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment because their (sole trader contractor) educators are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment?

    If a FDC or IHC service has already made an application through the Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment process the department was in contact with them to request further information about those educators (sole trader contractors) who are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment. Confirmation and evidence was sought that all relevant educators have applied for an ABN before any additional payment can be assessed.

    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.  

    Are there different Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payment arrangements for Family Day Care (FDC) or In Home Care (IHC) providers?

    No. Unless otherwise notified by the department, the payments will be paid as a lump sum on a weekly basis at the provider/service level. Consistent with the previous arrangements for the Child Care Subsidy, payments will not be made to educators.

    Approved providers are responsible for the administration of the payment including decisions on how to apply payment amounts to individual educators.

    Approved providers as business owners should explore options to support their business model and their educators. Further information is available on the australia.gov.au website.

    Are Family Day Care (FDC) and In Home Care (IHC) educators being asked to take a 50 per cent pay cut?

    No, Relief Package payments to providers are based on the lower of 50 per cent of service fee revenue or 50 per cent of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap, based on the fortnight before 2 March 2020.

    However, educators may also be eligible for the fortnightly JobKeeper Payment to cover their wage.

    If a FDC or IHC educator is not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment then they may have been eligible for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment.

    Have Family Day Care (FDC) and In Home Care (IHC) educators been told to continue working despite isolation and social distancing rules?

    FDC and IHC educators who have implemented health and safety measures in accordance with the relevant health advice may not be able to continue offering care to the same number of children as they did under the Child Care Package.

    In designing the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package, the Government listened to the concerns of peak industry organisations for the early childhood education and care sector.

    The department continues to work with peak bodies to address issues as they arise.

    Can we receive more than the 50 per cent Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package?

    Family Day Care (FDC) and In Home Care (IHC) services are already coping with a surge in enrolments as essential workers have sought flexible child care options for their preschool-aged children and their primary school-aged children who are no longer going to school.

    Additionally, in recognition of the higher costs associated with IHC sessions of care, providers will be eligible for an Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment of 20 per cent of the weekly payment calculated on the reference fortnight base rate. This payment will be made from 18 May 2020. IHC providers do not need to apply for this payment as it will be made automatically.

    Where a service is providing additional care compared to the reference period they could have applied to receive the Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment.

    IHC providers, or large providers (those with 50 or more services), should email ECECreliefpackage@dese.gov.au to request a service-level spreadsheet to complete. This streamlined process is available to IHC and large providers even if not all services are eligible for Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payments.

    Providers who receive this Exceptional Circumstance Supplementary Payment must tell the department if their income goes up for any reason. This includes if you have access to additional state or local government assistance. Please provide details regarding this additional support to ECECreliefpayment@dese.gov.au and put the relevant application ID number in the email subject header.

    If a FDC/IHC service has already made an application through the exceptional circumstance process, the department will have been in contact with them to request further information about those educators (sole trader contractors) who are not eligible for the JobKeeper Payment. Confirmation and evidence will be sought that all relevant educators have applied for an ABN before any additional payment can be assessed.

    What about educators who want to change services as they are uncomfortable with the support they are currently receiving?

    As is normally the case, Family Day Care and In Home Care educators are still able to move between services  there are no restrictions on movement.

    As a Family Day Care (FDC) service, are we allowed to charge our educators the fees that keep our service running?

    Any type of internal fee arrangement between a FDC service and an educator is a commercial business arrangement. The Government does not regulate or intervene on matters between educators and services. As part of broader messaging around the COVID-19 response the Prime Minister has appealed to all businesses to look at their rate of fees and charges and see if they can reduce them in recognition of the unprecedented times being experienced.

    Can Family Day Care (FDC) and In Home Care (IHC) services still access the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF)?

    For providers currently receiving a CCCF grant there will be no change to this agreement. The Prime Minister's announcement of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package relates to the Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy under the previous system. Applications for CCCF Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity previously lodged with the department for COVID-19 related matters are currently being considered. This grant opportunity closed on 3 April 2020.

    Inclusion Support Program

    My service receives funding from the Inclusion Support Program to support the inclusion of children with additional needs. Can Inclusion Development Fund (IDF) payments still be claimed through the Inclusion Support Portal? 

    For care provided from 6 April 2020 services should claim all IDF claims hours as ‘non face-to-face’ hours, including the actual attendance of the case child and approved non face-to-face hours.

    The department has changed the Inclusion Support Portal to notionally increase the ‘Additional non face-to-face hours’ for each case to allow services to claim IDF payments without the attendance records in the Child Care Subsidy System.

    Note that this is a system change to facilitate payments only. There is no change to the actual allowable non face-to-face hours in each case. Services are only eligible for IDF for the hours of actual attendance and the approved number of non-face-to-face hours as set out in their funding letter, per Section 11.1.1 of the Inclusion Support Program Guidelines.

    If services receive an error when claiming they should contact the IDF Manager at idfm@ku.com.au.

    Services will still need to record attendance and these will be checked by the department to verify IDF claims.

    Services can continue to submit new applications for Inclusion Support Program funding under the updated ISP Guidelines that were published on 30 March 2020.

    This IDF payment mechanism is expected to be in place for the duration of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package arrangements.

    For more information on ISP visit education.gov.au/inclusion-support-program-isp.

    Community Child Care Fund

    I submitted a Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances grant application prior to the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package being announced. What happens next?

    Applications that were received on or before 9:00 am on 3 April 2020 are currently being considered. All services are expected to be advised of the outcome of their applications by 30 June 2020.

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

    Child Care Community Fund Special Circumstances grants continue to be available to support services in areas of limited supply that are experiencing viability issues due to an unforeseen event, such as a natural disaster. This support is targeted at services in areas of limited supply, in particular to ensure families in regional, rural, remote areas and areas of disadvantage continue to have access to care. 

    This grant was closed for COVID-19 reasons on 3 April 2020, in recognition of the alternative support being provided to services under the Relief Package from 6 April, and now through the Transition Payment available to services from 13 July. Processing of grant applications received prior to 3 April is currently being finalised, and all services are expected to be advised of the outcome of their applications by 30 June 2020.

    Compliance measures

    What compliance measures will be in place for the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package payments?

    The department will continue regular compliance monitoring including provider debt recovery actions.

    Families and services can report concerns about services adhering with the conditions of the payments to the department by phoning: 1800 664 231 or emailing: tipoffline@dese.gov.au.

    Providers found not to be following the requirements of Family Assistance Law, including the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package, may have payments cancelled and/or have a debt notice issued.

    Last modified on [101|2090]