The Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package has been announced by the Australian Government in response to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), to support child care centres to remain open and keep educators within their jobs.
This is to ensure that quality education and care continue to be available for essential workers and disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families during this unprecedented health crisis.
What is the relief package?
The ECEC Relief Package will be provided to child care services in place of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) from April 6, 2020.
Under the newly announced package, child care services will receive payments until the end of the current 2019-2020 financial year. During this time, families will not be charged fees. This is to encourage parents to keep children enrolled even when they may not be attending so that centres can continue to stay open and keep educators employed.
In addition to support delivered by the ECEC Relief Package, childcare services will be able to access JobKeeper payments to pay staff and keep business running. The JobKeeper payment is a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, provided for a maximum period of 6 months.
Your early childhood education service is not required to apply for these payments and will receive them automatically.
Responsibilities as an employer
Employers may have to be more flexible during this time. Working from home where possible is recommended, but in the case of early childhood education this is often not possible.
You are encouraged to work with employees to consider options around providing paid leave, unpaid leave or ending employment where necessary. To better understand your rights and responsibilities as an employer during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
Supporting families in need
To provide assistance to families, the Government announced that services will now be able to waive out of pocket fees for families where a service remains open, but children are not attending for COVID-19 reasons. Gap fees can be waived retrospectively for as far back as March 23, 2020. While centres are not required to provide fee relief to families during the period from March 23 to April 5, it is strongly encouraged to help centres maintain enrolments.
It’s important to be aware that centres are not permitted to increase fees at this time.
Support prior to and including April 5, 2020
From April 6, the ECEC Relief Package will be provided in lieu of the following:
- Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS)
The Additional Child Care Subsidy is available for families who are experiencing temporary financial hardship as a result of lost income. This is short-term support that can be accessed for up to 13 weeks for up to 100 hours of subsidised care per child, per fortnight. In many cases the subsidy will cover the entire childcare service fee, enabling families to continue to access childcare services as required and for childcare centres to continue to operate.
- Childcare absences
The Child Care Subsidy can now be paid for up to 62 days of absence per child across the 2019-2020 financial year in response to the families who are not attending due to COVID-19.
If the 62 days are used, additional absence days can be claimed for COVID-19 related reasons. These reasons may include illness of children or families, or where the family decides that the child’s attendance would be the child or others at risk. No medical evidence is required.
Closure of business
In some situations, centres may make the decision to close. In the case of the latter, there is no entitlement to CCS while the centre is closed and not providing care, and no family should be charged fees during that time.
In some instances, especially where an outbreak occurs, centres may be directed to close which will be classified as a period of local emergency. Where a centre has been required to close temporarily due to COVID-19, CCS and ACCS will still be allowable, along with additional absences. Services are also not required to charge families fees during the period of closure due to local emergency. Centres must contact the department to activate local emergency provisions in the CCS system.
Get more information
During this time, information can change rapidly. For more information regarding the above, you can access more information via the Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Information for early childhood education and care providers and services document. To ensure you have the most up to date information pertaining to early childhood education and the COVID-19, visit this dedicated Department of Education, Skills and Employment website. For further details about the JobKeeper payments to support businesses and keep people employed, click here.
Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and beyond, Catalyst Education is dedicated to supporting our clients. Feel free to contact us as needed.
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