The Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Relief Package has been announced by the Australian Government to address potential challenges faced by childcare providers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ECEC Relief Package is intended to support childcare centres to remain open and keep educators within their jobs.
Quality early childhood education and care continue to be vital for essential workers and disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families, and centres will now have the assistance to continue to deliver this care while keeping centres running and educators employed.
What is the relief package?
The ECEC Relief Package will be provided to childcare services in place of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) from April 6, 2020.
Childcare 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.
Providing support to families
Following the latest announcement, 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 up to April 5, 2020
From April 6, the ECEC Relief Package will be provided in lieu of the following that was available from March 23 up and including April 5:
- 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.
During this time, information can change rapidly. More information regarding the above, can be accessed in 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, 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 pandemic and beyond, Practical Outcomes is dedicated to supporting our learners and early childhood education clients. Feel free to contact us as needed.