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

The Australian Government is providing support to the early childhood education and care sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We provide affected families and services with gap fee waivers, extra absences and special circumstances grants.

On this page:

Last updated on 05/05/2022

Announcements

We regularly update our website with information on COVID-19 and what this may mean for child care in specific regions. Read updates on our announcements page.

Gap fee waiving

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

Until 30 June 2022, services can waive the gap fee for families and continue to receive CCS if a child is unable to attend care for one of four reasons:

1. The child, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate due to COVID-19.

This applies from 9 November 2021.

2. The child is at a higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

This includes:

  • children with a disability
  • children with severe chronic health conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Where the child has a disability or chronic health condition, the family must provide a letter from a medical practitioner confirming the child is at higher risk before you can waive the gap fee. You must keep a record of the letter.

This applies from 27 January 2022.

3. The service, or a room at the service, is closed due to COVID-19.

This includes closures:

  • based on general guidance from a state or territory government agency, such as a health, education or regulatory agency, due to a COVID-19 case, from 27 January 2022
  • because educator-to-child ratios cannot be safely met while educators are isolating, from 27 January 2022
  • because a Family Day Care or In Home Care educator can’t provide their usual service while they, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate due to COVID-19, from 1 October 2021
  • because an Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) service operating on a school campus closed as part of a direction to the school to close, from 1 October 2021.

Services are encouraged to explore all options to remain open and provide care for vulnerable children and children of essential workers.

4. The state or territory has restricted access to child care in a region due to COVID-19.

This includes where the state or territory has restricted school attendance, in the case of OSHC.

This applies from the first day the restrictions are in force.

You must not waive the gap fee for families in any other circumstances.

If a family chooses to keep their child at home and use absences, they must still pay the gap fee.

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

You must accurately reflect waived gap fees in the fee statements provided to parents.

Contact your third-party software provider for help processing gap fee waivers.

Allowable absences

Families can get CCS when their child is absent from care for up to 42 days, per child, each financial year. These absences can be used for any reason.

We increased the allowable absence count to 52 days for the 2021–22 financial year, due to COVID-19. The extra 10 absences have been automatically applied in the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS). This is on top of extra absences provided to families during extended lockdowns in 2021.

If a state or territory restricts access to child care in a region for more than 7 days, we’ll provide more absences.

Unlimited absences during Omicron wave

We provided unlimited allowable absences during the peak of the Omicron wave:

  • between 1 January and 28 February 2022 for families in all states and territories, except Western Australia
  • between 3 March and 30 April 2022 for families in Western Australia.

These absences were automatically applied in the CCSS.

Absences at start or end of an enrolment

We don’t usually pay CCS for any absences before a child’s first, or after their last, physical attendance. There are exceptions to this rule to support families during COVID-19.

For enrolments between 1 December 2021 and 30 June 2022, we may pay CCS for absences that occur in the 7 days:

  • before the child’s first day of care (inclusive of their first day)
  • after their last day of care (inclusive of their last day).

We’ll only pay these absences if a child, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate due to COVID-19. You don’t need to charge the gap fee in this circumstance.

You should record the absence, using the reason code: child ill.

Families do not need to provide evidence. You must not indicate you hold evidence unless the family has provided a medical certificate.

Further exceptions apply based on where you’re located:

Western Australia

If an enrolment starts or ends between 3 March and 30 April 2022, we will pay CCS for any absences that occur before a child’s first, or after their last, day of care. These absences can be taken for any reason.

To ensure absences are paid in this situation, you must submit a $0 session of care. See instructions for submitting a $0 session of care below.

All other states and territories

If an enrolment starts or ends between 1 January and 28 February 2022, we’ll pay CCS for any absences that occur before the child’s first day, or after their last day of care. These absences can be taken for any reason.

To ensure absences are paid in this situation, services must submit a $0 session of care. See instructions for submitting a $0 session of care below.

How to record a $0 session of care

If the absence occurred before the child’s first physical attendance, record an attendance on the first day of the enrolment with the following details:

  • session fee: $0.00
  • session start time: 6.00 am to 6.15 am (use another 15-minute period if this time conflicts with an actual absence)
  • session description: COVID-19 first day of care.

If the absence occurred after the child’s last physical attendance, record an attendance on the last day of the enrolment with the following details:

  • session fee: $0.00
  • session start time: 10.00 pm to 10.15 pm (use another 15-minute period if this time conflicts with an actual absence)
  • session description: COVID-19 last day of care.

Community Child Care Fund

You can apply for a Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances grant if you’ve had to close, or partially close, your service due to COVID-19.

Find out how to apply for a CCCF Special Circumstances grant.

Service closures

You must 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.

General support and resources

Keep up to date with COVID-19 advice from the Australian Government and all state and territory governments on the ACECQA website.

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

The Australian Government provides COVID-19 support funding for businesses.

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

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

Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines on the Department of Health website and 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.

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

Previous support packages

The Australian Government has implemented a range of support packages to help the early childhood education and care sector manage the impact of COVID-19. 

COVID-19 timeline

We’ve developed a timeline for providers and services that captures important milestones relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Use the timeline as a reference for when lockdown restrictions and measures were in place across Australia.

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 can also stay up to date by subscribing to our newsletter and joining our Facebook Group.