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

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

On this page:

Last updated at 2.20pm on 17/11/2021

Announcements

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

See our announcements page.

Support available

The Australian Government is supporting families and services affected by COVID-19 through:

Allowable absences

Families can get up to 42 allowable absence days per child each financial year.

For the 2021–22 financial year, all Australian families can access 10 extra allowable absences per child.

This brings the total number of allowable absences available to 52.

These extra absences are to help services and families affected by COVID-19, but can be used for any reason. They will be applied automatically.

The 10 extra allowable absences are on top of the additional allowable absences provided to families in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory during the extended lockdowns of 2021.

If a state or territory restricts access to child care in a region for more than 7 days, more absences will be provided.

Gap fee waiving

Services can waive the gap fee and receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) if a child is unable to attend care because:

  • They, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate due to COVID-19. This applies from 9 November 2021.
  • The service, or a room at the service, is closed on advice from the state or territory government due to COVID-19. This includes where:
    • a Family Day Care or In Home Care educator isn’t able to provide their usual service because they, or a member of their immediate household, is quarantining or isolating.
    • An Outside School Hours Care service operating on a school campus is required to close as part of direction to the school to close.
    This applies from 1 October for the duration of the closure outlined in the advice.
  • The state or territory has restricted access to child care in a region due to COVID-19. This applies from the first day the restrictions are in force.  

Services must:

  • keep a record of the advice by a state or territory authority advising that they close
  • accurately reflect waived gap fees in the fee statements provided to parents.

Services should also, where possible, sight evidence from families required to isolate (such as an SMS or app notification) and keep this on record.

General information about gap fee waiving

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

Charging practices, including the decision to waive gap fees, are a business decision for individual services. 

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

Enrolments

Support for ending enrolments after lockdown

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

This rule won’t apply for absences after 12 July 2021 during a COVID-19 hotspot of more than 7 days, or within 28 days of the hotspot ending. But you must take action.

Learn what to do if a child’s enrolment ends during a COVID-19 hotspot or within 28 days.

If you follow these steps, we will pay back CCS where debts have been raised after 12 July 2021. You must pass this on to the family if you have raised the debt with them.

Support for enrolments that started during lockdown

When a child’s enrolment starts, we don’t usually pay CCS for any days before the first day the child physically attends.

This rule won’t apply for absences after 12 July 2021 during a COVID-19 hotspot of more than 7 days, or within 28 days of the hotspot ending. But you must take action.

Learn what to do if a child’s enrolment started during a COVID-19 hotspot or within 28 days.

If you follow these steps, we will pay CCS for these absences. You must pass the benefit of this payment on to the family.

Maintaining enrolments in extended lockdowns

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

Services and families in COVID-19 hotspots for 10 weeks or more were supported to prevent enrolments from automatically ending.

Learn what to do to maintain enrolments in Greater Sydney.

Learn what to do to maintain enrolments in Melbourne.

Business continuity payments and recent support

From 23 August 2021, eligible child care services received business continuity payments during extended COVID-19 lockdowns. Services received 25–40% of their pre-lockdown revenue (depending on service type).

Business continuity payments, additional allowable absences, and gap fee waivers were previously linked to a COVID-19 hotspot, defined as an area:

These supports were provided until the state or territory lifted restrictions around access to child care (or school in the case of Outside School Hours Care).

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

For business continuity payments, services were required to meet conditions, outlined in the business continuity payment guidelines.

General support

Generally, services and families can access the following:

Families can search for child care services near them through Starting Blocks.

COVID-19 restrictions

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

Stay up to date with  your official state and territory COVID-19 response website.

Service closures

You need to tell us if you are temporarily closing your service for any reason and for any period. You can do this via the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or your third-party software.

You also need to tell your state or territory regulatory authority.

Health information

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

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

COVID-19 vaccinations

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

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

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

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

Previous support packages

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

Payments under these packages have ended.

Read more about these packages.

Stay in touch

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

You should also stay up to date by subscribing to our newsletter.