Current COVID safe settings in early childhood education and care services:
- All persons working (including volunteers and contractors) on a ECEC site are now required to be fully vaccinated. (unless they have a medical exemption).
- Individual services should evaluate what is most appropriate for their service and their circumstances when adults are attending their service for tours, orientation of new families and graduation ceremonies, including vaccination status.
- Prioritise who is attending on site based on the development and support needs of staff and children.
- Stay home when unwell and get tested.
- Parents/guardians and visitors onsite in ECEC must comply with maintaining 1.5m physical distancing, contactless check-in (where possible) and practising good hand hygiene.
- Staff are not required to wear face masks but can choose to do so. Staff should maintain 1.5m physical distancing from each other (wherever possible).
- The density limit of one person per four square metres should be applied to any internal spaces and one person to two square metres outdoors where accessed by visitors and used only by staff (for example, staff room).
- Move to increased ventilation and outdoor programming
- Implement external drop off and pick up and contactless check-in
- Reducing mixing between different age or room groups
Updated 23 May 2022.
COVID-19 Contact Management in ECEC Services
There is a streamlined process for notifying potential contacts as groups or cohorts at a ECEC servive:
1. Positive cases are required to notify their ECEC service if they been onsite 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or test collection date for asymptomatic cases.
2. ECEC provider or nominated supervisor must submit a notification through National Quality Agenda IT System (NQAITS) as soon as they become aware that a child, parent, contractor, or worker has been onsite during their infectious period.
3. ECECs must notify the ECEC community through a daily email (where applicable) when a child or staff member has (or multiple children or staff members) have returned a positive COVID-19 test result and had attended the service. The letter should include dates of attendance and affected age group room / program room. The notification can be provided to only the affected age group room / program room or to the whole service.
4. The letter will ask families and staff to monitor for symptoms and if symptomatic, test and if positive isolate for 7 days.
The DET page Managing a COVID-19 case in early childhood education and care services (ECEC) as well as the COVID-19 Contact Management in ECEC Services Action Plan and communication template has the latest information that you need to manage a case in your service.
Updated 23 May 2022
Managing a COVID-19 positive person
The latest information on how to manage a positive case in your service is here.
An employee and parent/carer of a child must advise the ECEC service if they have attended the service while infectious.
The positive person must quarantine at home for 7 days from the day of their PCR test.
Positive cases will be contacted by the Department of Health to confirm their clearance date so that they have a text message of when they are able to leave isolation.
Individuals can return to their normal activities from the clearance date the Department of Health provides, including attending an ECEC. A negative test result is not required to be able to leave isolation on the clearance date.
Managing non-household education contacts (people who don’t live in the same household as a COVID-19 positive person)
A non-household education contact is someone who has had 15 minutes of face-to-face contact with, or spent 2 hours in the same indoor space with someone who is infectious with COVID-19.
There are four main contact categories:
Any person who has spent time with a positive case (during their infectious period) on site an ECEC service will be referred to as an ‘education contact’. This is the only contact category that an ECEC service is required to identify and communicate with when there has been a positive case on site.
Please refer to the COVID-19 Contact Management in ECEC Services Action Plan that has been prepared by the Department to help services support staff, volunteers, contractors and families through the process. Here is a template letter for you to use to inform parents.
The webpage Advice on what to do if you are a close contact of a person who has received a positive COVID-19 test result also has information about each scenario of who might be a close contact and whether and for how long they will need to self-isolate.
The infectious period is from 48 hours or 2 calendar days before symptoms start (or, if no symptoms, 48 hours or 2 calendar days before they were tested)
Updated 16 May 2022
Rapid Antigen Testing for ECEC services
From Monday 23 May 2022, the use of RATs will only be required where staff and children are close contacts (household contacts) OR they have symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or a runny nose).
Children and staff will therefore no longer be recommended to conduct RATs twice a week if they have no symptoms. Close contacts will need 5 negative tests over a 7-day period to attend a service.
Early childhood education and care services will continue to be provided with the same weekly quantity of RATs. These should be provided to families and staff, as you have been doing.
Rapid Antigen Testing for children aged 0 -2
The requirements for close contacts to avoid the need for self-quarantine are applicable to everyone, regardless of age (with the exception of mask requirements). This includes children aged 0 to 2.
This means that for children aged 0 to 2 (as with other children), if their parent/carer wishes them to attend a service, they must test negative using a rapid antigen if they are a close contact OR are symptomatic (fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or runny nose). Parents and carers are required to advise the service that the child is a close contact and that they have tested negative. However parents/carers are not required to provide evidence to the service and services are not required to advise other families.
There are some brands of rapid antigen test that are suitable for this age group (but not all) and this is a matter for a parent/carer to discuss with their health care provider or pharmacist prior to purchasing and administering the rapid antigen test
If you do not have enough packs, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We will work with each service to determine tracking (where available) and additional supply if required.
Information for services and FAQs for service staff and children on the delivery and use of the kits is available.
Information for parents and carers, including a factsheet for parents and carers offering tips for administering rapid antigen tests on younger children, is available.
Families of younger children can still access 2 free rapid antigen tests or PCR testing for children who have symptoms or who have been exposed at their service at state testing centres, that cater to children under 5. Children who have any symptoms, however mild, will also need to stay at home, even if they are not a positive case or a close contact.
It is recommended that staff and children who have no symptoms and who have had no contact with a known case of COVID-19 but return a positive rapid antigen test undertake a PCR test to confirm the result of the rapid antigen test within the first 48 hours of testing positive. This means that affected staff and children are able to confirm with certainty whether they have COVID-19 with a PCR test and so avoid any unnecessary absence.
If staff and children follow up with a PCR they are still required to isolate while they wait for their PCR test result. If they receive a negative PCR test result, they are then able to leave isolation and return to their ECEC service.
This advice does not affect positive RAT results where the staff member or child either has symptoms or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If someone tests positive under these circumstances, it is very likely that they have COVID-19 and it is not recommended that they get a PCR test.
The department has updated the centre-based COVID-19 ECEC Response Guidelines and template letter to help you communicate this with your ECEC community.
Staff and parents or carers who have any questions about testing for COVID-19 can also find out more information by visiting coronavirus.vic.gov.au or by phoning 1800 675 398.
Face masks, while recommended, are not required in any ECEC or school setting. This means ECEC staff and visitors will no longer be required to wear masks in ECEC settings. Any staff member or visitor who wishes to wear a mask may do so, including those who are medically at-risk.
Face masks may be required as an additional temporary risk mitigation measure in exceptional circumstances, for example if an ECEC service experiences high levels of or prolonged transmission.
Updated 29 April 2022.
All ECEC staff are now required to be fully vaccinated (3 doses) unless they have a medical exemption (see below for updated information). This includes all types of early childhood and care settings.
Education workers included in the vaccination requirements
Workers for ECEC services include:
- ECEC employed staff (e.g teachers, educators, ancillary support staff including reception)
- Contractors working near children or staff (e.g trades and maintenance persons, cleaners but excluding delivery drivers)
- Staff of the Department of Education and Training that are entering the service (e.g Authorised Officers, Early Childhood Improvement Branch staff)
- Staff of any other entity that are entering the service (e.g allied health, NDIS, school readiness funding providers; KIS, PSFO etc)
- Volunteers working near children or staff (e.g parent helpers, Committee of Management members)
- Students on placements.
Required vaccination after contracting COVID-19
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advises that a previous COVID-19 infection is not a contraindication to COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination can occur post a COVID-19 infection and there is no requirement to delay vaccination after recovery from acute illness.
Responsibilities of ECEC providers with workers (including volunteers) onsite at an ECEC service
ECEC providers are familiar with the requirements to collect, record and hold vaccination information of education workers.
Workers unable to meet the vaccination requirements
If a worker does not meet the COVID-19 vaccination third dose requirement and does not have an approved medical exemption, the worker cannot be onsite at an ECEC service on or after 25 March 2022, based on when they had their second dose.
For more information, including how to book and information about walk-in vaccination sites, refer to COVID-19 vaccine third dose.
Information about the mandate
Current COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Facilities) Directions
We have obtained this set of Frequently Asked Questions from our IR partner ABLA on the application of the Directions and the industrial relations implications.
Who is impacted?
All childcare and early childhood services in Victoria are impacted. This Direction is not restricted to certain regions within Victoria which are considered higher risk.
The Direction applies to education workers in the service, which includes:
- Any staff member (early childhood teachers, educators, administrative employees)
- A person who works at the service and who will or may come into close proximity to a child or staff, regardless of whether they are engaged by the centre (such as food preparation, relief teachers, labour hire employees, NDIS providers)
- Staff of the Department of Education and Training who attend an education facility (such as allied health personnel or Authorised Officers)
- Staff of any other entity (speech therapist, school readiness funding providers, Kindergarten Inclusion Support, Preschool Field Officer)
- Volunteers that attend an education facility who work in close proximity to children, students or staff (including parent helpers)
- Students on placement.
The Direction does not apply to:
- Delivery personnel.
- Contractors contracted to work at an education facility but will not or may not be in close proximity to children, students or staff.
We understand that these directions may lead to difficult conversations and decisions for you and some of your staff. We have produced a template letter that may help you communicate with your staff.
Those of your staff who wish to be vaccinated should book in their appointment as soon as possible in one of these ways:
Changes to acceptable evidence of medical exemption to COVID-19 vaccination
Updated 29 April 2022
Bookings have now opened for children aged 5-11 to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
This includes 5-year-olds attending early childhood education and care services.
Vaccination for children aged 5-11 is not mandatory but is strongly encouraged.
The vaccine is one-third of the adult dose and will be delivered at 2 appointments, expected to be 8 weeks apart. The time between the 2 doses can be shortened in special circumstances, such as in an outbreak response or for international travel.
Many state-run vaccination sites across Victoria are being transformed into an Australian-themed ‘forest of protection’ creating a friendly environment for children aged 5 to 11 years to receive their vaccination.
COVID-19 vaccines will also be available through participating general practices, pharmacies and Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisations. There will also be some community-based vaccination clinics and pop-up sites in the first few months of 2022.
Some children will already be 5 at the start of the year, while others will turn 5 over the year. Families should book their children in for vaccination as soon as possible after their fifth birthday.
Vaccination information for children and teenagers includes factsheets and frequently asked questions (FAQ) documents to support your conversations with families. There is also a letter from the department which you can forward to parents.
For information about the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and clinics close to you, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder.
Updated 29 April 2022
These are the main supports that may be relevant to your team if they have lost work during a Commonwealth Hotspot or are having to self isolate. Please note that the Government has announced that these payments will be wound back in coming weeks.
The payment they may be able to get depends on their situation. The eligibility rules are different for each payment. People who receive other Commonwealth Government Income Support payments may find their eligibility for these payments or the amount they can receive is affected.
For further information about financial support available for individuals, families and businesses please click here for details
Updated 13 December 2021
You can access recent DET emails outlining impact of restrictions on your service below:
Updated 29 April 2022
The Australian Government has announced it will provide support for early childhood and education care services until 30 June 2022 because of the continued impact of COVID-19.
Gap Fee Waivers
There are now more reasons services can waive gap fees.
Until 30 June 2022, services can waive the gap fee and receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) if a child is unable to attend care for one of four reasons:
- The child, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate due to COVID-19.
- The child is at a higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
- The service, or a room at the service, is closed due to COVID-19. This includes where a service closes based on general guidance from a state or territory government agency, or because educator to child ratios cannot be safely met as the educator/s must isolate. Written advice specific to the impacted service is not required.
- 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 Outside School Hours Care.
Unlimited allowable absences
We’re providing unlimited allowable absences throughout January and February 2022, in response to the Omicron wave.
Families won’t have to use their 52 allowable absences for the 2021–22 financial year during this period. These absences will be automatically applied in the Child Care Subsidy System.
We may back pay you if a child had already exceeded their 52 absences in January. You must pass on the benefit to the family.
Absences at the 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 who start or end an enrolment during the peak of the Omicron wave.
The following exceptions apply for services in all states and territories except Western Australia:
- From 1 January to 28 February 2022, we’ll pay CCS for any absences prior to a child’s first day, or after their last day for enrolments that begin or end during this period. The absences can be taken for any reason.
- From 1 to 31 December 2021 and 1 March to 30 June 2022, we’ll pay CCS for any absences in the 7 days prior to a child’s first, or after their last day, if the child or a member of their immediate household must isolate due to COVID-19.
Updated 31 January 2022
Support for ending enrolments after lockdown
We encourage you to talk to your families about their plans for their child to return to care after lockdown.
Families can now end their child’s enrolment up to 28 days after a COVID-19 hotspot ends without attending their last day in person.
When a child’s enrolment ends, DESE does not usually pay Child Care Subsidy (CCS) for any days after the last day the child physically attends.
This rule, however, won’t now apply when an enrolment ends during a COVID-19 hotspot of more than 7 days, or 28 days after the hotspot ends.
What this change means for providers and families
Many children have stayed home during extended lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.
Families have been supported to continue their child’s enrolment during this period. As lockdowns end, you are encouraged to talk to your families about their plans for their child to return to care.
To support services and families ending enrolments after lockdown, CCS can continue to be paid for absences after a child’s last attendance, up to 28 days after the end of a COVID-19 hotspot.
While families will not incur a CCS debt for this 28-day period, services will still be required to resume charging gap fees when restrictions to child care lift.
To find out what a service is eligible for visit our early childhood COVID-19 support by region webpage. Here we list regions eligible for support and the dates the support starts and ends.
If families choose to unenrol from care
It is important to talk to your families about their plans to return to care. If a family does not intend to return to care, you must take action as soon as possible. If you don't, you may get a debt on behalf of the family.
CCS is not usually paid after the last day a child physically attends a service. However, CCS will be paid for absences after a child's physiacl attendance for up to 28 days after a COVID-19 hotspot ends, for hotspots that lasted more than 7 days.
If families choose to unenrol their child from care, they need to do so by the following dates to avoid incurring a CCS debt for absences after last attendance:
- Metropolitan Melbourne: 18 November
- Mildura: 18 November
- Mitchell Shire: 10 November
- Rest of Victoria: 7 October
What do providers need to do?
- Speak to families about their intentions to return.
- Identify any enrolments that may be eligible.
- Identify if the planned enrolment end date falls during a COVID-19 hotspot of more than 7 days or with 28 days of the hotspot ending (see above).
- Record an attendance for the child on the last day of the enrolment, ensuring that:
- the session fee is $0
- the session start time is 10:00pm and end time is 10:15pm
- the session description is ‘COVID-19 last day of care’.
- Advise families of the action taken and ensure they receive the benefit of the payments.
If the $0 session time conflicts with an absence, change the start and end times to any other time in the day where there is no conflict.
If the session conflicts with an actual attendance, you don’t need to do anything; this policy does not affect you.
It’s important providers and services comply with their responsibilities under Family Assistance Law. If they cannot pass on the payment as a fee reduction, they should contact families and make arrangements to pay them directly.
From 13 August, child care services in Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 Hotspots can waive gap fees for families who keep their children at home if either of the following applies:
- The Commonwealth Hotspot runs for more than seven days. If this applies, gap fees can be waived from day eight of the hotspot declaration.
- The Commonwealth Hotspot runs for seven days or fewer, but the state or territory government has limited who can access child care. This could include limiting access to vulnerable children, children whose parents can’t work from home, or the children of essential workers. Check your state or territory government website to see what applies to your region. If this applies, gap fees can be waived from day one of the hotspot declaration.
As your region enters a period of lockdown, or comes out of lockdown, DESE will email you about the changed circumstances. You can also check the DESE page for regions that can now waive gap fees.
Melbourne remains a COVID hotspot and gap fees can be waived for families in COVID-19 hotspots.
- Services in Metropolitan Melbourne can waive gap fees from 13 August 2021 (ongoing)
Gap fee waiving is a choice for each individual service provider. Where you choose to waive gap fees, you will continue to receive CCS.
Please remember that if you are in receipt of the Business Continuity Payments, you must waive gap fees for all non-attending families (unless they are not eligible for CCS).
In addition, services directed to close by a local authority because of COVID-19 can waive gap fees (while closed) until 31 December 2021.
Services in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 Hotspot can access additional allowable absences if the declaration extends for more than seven days.
Families in greater Melbourne can access additional absences from 6 August 2021.
Families can use these absences even if they have not used up their 42 days of allowable absences.
You do not need to do anything to access these absences.
If the hotspot declaration extends for more than seven days, the Child Care Subsidy System will automatically assess any absences claimed during that period as emergency additional absences and backdate those absences as required.
Check this table for regions that can access additional allowable absences and when this starts.
Active enrolment period extensions
Under Family Assistance Law, enrolments automatically end when a child does not physically attend care for 14 weeks.
Some regions in extended lockdowns may reach the end of this 14 week period. If this happens in your region, DESE will let you know.
Families in hotspots
Support is available for families who live in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot.
Gap fee waivers and absences
Services that are not in a hotspot can waive gap fees for children living in eligible hotspots while they are absent. These children will also be able to access additional allowable absences during the hotspot period (from 23 June).
Updated 31 January 2022
You may like to investigate your eligibility for any of the following Victorian Government support packages.
Grants & programs
- COVIDSafe Deep Cleaning Rebate: supports small and medium-sized businesses by reimbursing the cost of professional ‘decontamination’ cleaning services carried out following the notification of a COVID 19 case at the site.
- Business Costs Assistance Program Round Three - you are eligible for the 12 August 2021 Top-Up if you received a grant from the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two or the Business Costs Assistance Program Round Two July Extension and your business is located in metropolitan Melbourne.
- The Small Business COVID Hardship Fund provides grants of $10,000 for businesses that have had a 70 per cent reduction in turnover and are not eligible for other Victorian Government payments.
- The reintroduced Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme, which will be available to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million that have suffered a decline in turnover of at least 30 per cent due to the pandemic.
- Jobs Victoria Fund: The Jobs Victoria Fund is providing $250 million in wage subsidies to assist Victorian businesses to employ at least 10,000 people who are looking for work.
Support of a non-financial nature
Reviewed 24 October 2021
Business Continuity Payments are no longer available.
As of 23 August, child care services will get business continuity payments until the end of COVID-19 lockdowns if they meet conditions.
You do not need to notify DESE if your service is no longer in lockdown.
Learn about business continuity payments on DESE website.
Services in Metropolitan Melbourne that opted-in will get business continuity payments until the Victorian Government lifts restrictions around access to child care. This is currently expected to be 5 November 2021.
DESE will stop making payments when services come out of a COVID-19 hotspot, but automatically restart payments if those services that opted-in go back into a hotspot.
Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) will continue to receive payments until all primary school children are allowed to return to school, even if they are longer in a COVID-19 hotspot, provided they still meet the other eligibility criteria.
Payments for all services will end on 30 November 2021.
If you would like to access the slides or presentation by PwC & ABLA on 8 September, which explored the BCP further, you can do so below:
Ongoing BCP queries - opting in/out
Additional key points
- If your circumstances change and you become eligible or no longer eligible, you must email ECECViabilitySupportPackage@dese.gov.au to request a DocuSign form to complete and submit. You must submit your DocuSign by midnight on the first Thursday of the relevant fortnight.
Business continuity payments will be made to services in Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 Hotspots if:
- the Commonwealth hotspot runs for more than 7 days and the state or territory government has limited who can access child care, or
- the Commonwealth hotspot extends beyond 28 days.
Check dates for business continuity payments in eligible regions.
Business continuity payments will be based on the service type:
- Centre Based Day Care, Family Day Care and In Home Care services will get fortnightly payments of 25% of their pre-lockdown revenue calculated up to the hourly cap.
- Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) and vacation care services will get separate fortnightly payments of 40% of their pre-lockdown revenue calculated up to the hourly cap.
The support payments will be contingent on a number of conditions. Eligible services must:
- anticipate, or be experiencing, attendance below 50 per cent (ACAV comment: this will be done on a self-assessment basis, not by checking your actual attendance data)
- agree to waive gap fees for all families whose children are not attending
- maintain staffing levels (please see ABLA presentation for further guidance)
- agree to a fee freeze for the duration of support; and
- refrain from accessing other Commonwealth Government funded supports.
Updated 15 November 2021
QR code check-ins are now required for all visitors who enter ECEC buildings and indoor spaces, including:
- all visitors, including contractors, external staff and building and maintenance staff
- all parents and carers.
QR code check-ins will not be required for service staff or children.
The employer is responsible for ensuring there is an accurate record of daily staffing arrangements and all children's attendance in accordance with National Law. Further, the QR code does not replace the usual sign-in and sign-out processes for visitor attendance required under the National Law, in particular the purpose of visits.
Please read the rest of the detail of your obligations here.
Reviewed 24 October 2021
All businesses that are allowed to remain open must have a COVID safe plan which is regularly updated.
Reviewed 30 September 2021
During the height of the pandemic ACA and partners produced a number of templates that you may like to access.
Updated 24 October 2021
During the pandemic, ACA and partners have presented a number of webinars and member updates. You can access slides from these below.
PwC-ABLA - Business Continuity Payments Wednesday 8 September 2021
During the pandemic our IR partner ABLA has produced advice to support decision making around staffing issues:
There is a range of resources available to workers to support their mental health.
Added 16 October 2021