COVID-19 restrictions and early childhood

To slow the spread of COVID-19, state and territory governments may impose restrictions on local communities. This may affect how child care is delivered. This page provides information on Australian Government measures to support the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector in restricted areas.

We strongly encourage services to stay informed about the situation in their area, and the impact on their operations, from official government sources and websites.

On this page:

Queensland

The Queensland Government announced a three-day lockdown for Greater Brisbane, effective from 6pm Friday 8 January 2021 to 6pm Monday 11 January. 

The Queensland Government’s website advises that kindergarten and child care services remain operational for essential workers during the lockdown.

The website states: “Childcare is an essential business. You may leave your home to drop and pick up your child from a kindergarten or day-care”. 

The local government areas of Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands and Logan are subject to the lockdown while contact tracers work to ensure the UK strain of COVID-19 is not circulating in the community. 

The website provides other details on restrictions in those areas. 

New South Wales

The NSW Government has introduced restrictions across Sydney in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation.

On 21 December 2020, we declared a Local Area Emergency Declaration for child care services in the Northern Beaches Local Government Area (LGA) of Sydney. The declaration is in force until 11:59pm 10 January 2021.

The declaration enables Child Care Subsidy to continue to be available as it entitles families to additional absence days if their child has used their 42 absence days.

For more information about support during a local emergency, visit our help in an emergency webpage.

To find out if your service is located within the Northern Beaches LGA, visit the Northern Beaches Council website.

Any educators or families that have been, or will be, in a restricted area must follow the rules set out by state and territory governments.

Current information on restrictions in the Sydney area is available on the NSW Government website.

We will continue to monitor the situation, including public health orders issued by the NSW Government.

South Australia

On 18 November 2020 the South Australian Government announced a short period of restrictions due to COVID-19. This meant that for two days – Thursday 19 and Friday 20 November – child care services were only open for children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

For this short period, Child Care Subsidy continued to be paid to services and, as such, the services are required to collect the gap fee from families.

These restrictions were lifted on 22 November and child care services in South Australia were able to return to business as usual from that date.

More information is available on the South Australian Government’s COVID-19 page.

Visit our Help in an emergency page to find out what support is available if your service has to close due to COVID-19.

Victoria

Victoria moved to COVIDSafe Summer restrictions from 11:59pm on Sunday 6 December 2020.

Learn more about Victoria’s COVIDSafe Summer on the vic.gov.au.

Support for restricted areas

On 5 August 2020, the Australian Government announced support for Victorian families and services. The measures build on the successful Child Care Subsidy (CCS).

The Government will extend this support until 27 September 2020, in line with Victoria’s roadmap to reopening. Services will receive the extension payments as a lump sum. The department will contact eligible providers.

From 28 September 2020, services in Victoria are being supported by the Recovery Package.

The below payments continued for OSHC in Victoria until 11 October in regional Victoria and 18 October in Melbourne:

  • Increased Transition Payment
  • Additional Viability Support Payment
  • Special Transition Payment

Additional allowable absences

All children attending Victorian services have an additional 45 days of allowable absences. These are in addition to the existing 42 days for the 2020–21 financial year.

The additional absences have been applied to families’ accounts automatically. Services can access them as they usually would when submitting session reports.

Questions and answers

Business viability

If my service is closed due to COVID-19, can I increase the hours of care set out in a child’s enrolment to increase my CCS income?

The department would view such arrangements as an attempt to defraud the Commonwealth on the part of both the provider and the family.

It is entering a contract for service that cannot be honoured with the intent of increasing income from the Australian Government.

Any allegations that a provider is entering into such arrangements would be investigated by the department and compliance action, including potential criminal prosecution for fraud, will be taken. 

Are the Government support payments (i.e. Transition Payment, Additional Viability Support Payment etc.) counted as income?

All Commonwealth grants need to be recorded as income. However, the following payments are exempt from Goods and Services Tax:

  • Transition Payment
  • Special Transition Payment
  • Additional Viability Support Payment

Border restrictions

What about access to child care in jurisdictions where there are cross-border complications and other issues?

Families and services should seek information from their respective state and territory governments.

Here are some helpful links by jurisdiction:

More information

Use the COVID-19 restriction checker to find out about restrictions in your state or territory.

Providers and services can email ccshelpdesk@dese.gov.au or call 1300 667 276.

Parents looking for care can search Child Care Finder.

Employees and parents who are concerned that providers aren’t meeting the conditions of their Transition Payment can report to the tipoff line on 1800 664 231 or tipoffline@dese.gov.au.