COVID-19 support and resources

COVID-19 information changes frequently as you know. There may be short periods after changes are announced by Government when the information on the tabs below is not current. Please check the "updated" dates at the end of each tab.

With apologies to our Tasmanian members, the bulk of the information on this page is for Victorian services, as conditions in this state have resulted in continuing requirements. For information on restrictions in Tasmania, please see here.

Please click on the headings below to open.

Key contact points

Updated 23 September 2021

Latest COVID safe settings in ECEC

Metropolitan Melbourne is subject to the following restrictions. Please check here to see which areas of regional Victoria are also under lockdown.

Residents of Melbourne cannot leave your home other than for one of the six following reasons:

  • shopping for necessary goods and services (once per day, one person per household)
  • caregiving or compassionate reasons, including medical care or to get a COVID-19 test
  • authorised work (with a permit) or permitted education
  • exercise (once a day for up to 4 hours, and that 4 hours includes any time spent outdoors socialising in limited groups)
  • outdoor social interaction in limited groups (once a day for up to 4 hours, and that 4 hours includes any time spent on exercise)
  • to get a COVID-19 vaccination (provided the distance travelled, and the time taken is no more than is absolutely necessary)

DESE will communicate with all service providers about the impact of the easing or adding of restrictions on gap fees, Business Continuity Payments, absences and so on. Please refer to the DESE emails for confirmation.

Current COVID safe settings in early childhood education and care services

Please visit Current COVIDSafe Settings in early childhood education and care services for the most current source of information about COVID safe settings in early childhood education and care services. It includes information about:

  • Vaccination requirements for workers
  • Rules that relate to regions that have restrictions vs those that don't
  • New and enhanced COVIDSafe practice changes relevant to all ECEC services across Victoria (increased ventilation, outdoor programming etc)
  • Ongoing COVIDSafe practices relevant to all ECEC services across Victoria (face masks, square metre rule, reducing mixing etc)
  • Student placements
  • Authorised worker permits

Updated 6 October 2021

Victoria’s Roadmap: Delivering the National Plan

Mandatory vaccination of ECEC staff

On 22 September, the Victorian Government announced that all staff in schools and early childhood services will be required to have a first COVID-19 vaccine dose by 18 October or have a booking within one week (i.e. a one week grace period) with full vaccination required by 29 November unless a medical exemption applies. This includes all types of early childhood and care settings.

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.

In summary, the requirements for vaccination and the obligations on employers are:

  • Providers are required to collect, record and hold vaccination information about the worker from 18 October 2021
  • Workers must have their first dose, or be booked to receive the first dose, by 25 October 2021
  • Workers must have their second dose (i.e. be fully vaccinated) by 29 November 2021 (for a brief period this date was publicised as 15 December but that is no longer the case)

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)
  • 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:

 
Updated 19 October 2021

What to do if you have a case of COVID-19 in your service

In September 2021, as case numbers escalate, there have been several early learning services impacted by COVID-19. The advice below is a strategy for you, in the absence of detailed advice from DET or DH on the process for dealing with a confirmed case in an early learning service. We will update this page as we are provided with more information, which we are urgently seeking. 

Please note that there are significant delays in the system, but as soon as you notify DET, a dedicated DET Emergency & Closures team will be notified and will be in touch with you as soon as possible. They will also liaise with the Department of Health who will advise you of actions needed (including timing of any closure), while the DET team are there to provide support as you navigate the process. 

You may need to decide for yourself whether to close your service, before you even hear from DH. You will do this based on the particular circumstances of your exposure and your service. You should also start some of the processes that the websites say DH will help you with - see below for more detail.

To help you decide on closure, please use this risk assessment template (from https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/confirmed-case-workplace). 

The infectious period for COVID-19 is 48 hours before symptoms start, or, if there are no symptoms, 48 hours before their test.

  • If you have had a positive child or staff member in the service during this infectious period you will need to close all or part of your service, most likely for at least 2 days. 
  • If the positive case is a parent who may have only entered the foyer for a short period, closure may not be required. Consider the circumstances of the entry, how many people were in close contact, where those people have been, the layout of the service etc.
  • If the person was not in the service in their infectious period, you should not need to close, although in some instances you may receive advice to the contrary from DH or DET.
If you have not heard from DET Closures team and would like to talk through your situation at this stage, please call us on 03 9532 2017. 

If DH advise you of the positive case, rather than a parent or educator, you should report to DET (NQAITS) and and follow DH/DET advice. 

In our experience, you are much more likely to hear directly from a parent or educator, in which case, please follow the steps below.

Steps to take on learning of a positive case

  1. Notify the Department of Education’s Quality Assessment and Regulation Division (QARD) either via the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS - see this link for advice on how to do this) or call 1300 307 415 - select any menu option and a DET officer will help. If you need to leave a message, do so and they will call you back. 
  2. Contact the Department of Health on 1300 651 160 - select option 0 (you may be on hold for some time)
  3. If you cannot get through to either DH or DET as per the above, you can also call your own regional DET office contact.
  4. If the case is an employee or contractor, advise WorkSafe Victoria
  5. Notify your employees, families and other relevant people that there is a confirmed positive case and that you will communicate more once you know more. (template letters- please adjust as needed)
  6. Undertake your identification of close contact tracing using this DH spreadsheet - note definition of close contacts on the spreadsheet. Advise close contacts to get tested & isolate (currently 14 days with a negative test required on day 13)
  7. Organise a deep clean
  8. Continue to communicate with families and your staff along the way
  9. Upon reopening notify DET via the NQAITS
  10. Apply for COVIDSafe Deep Cleaning Rebate (The rebate will cover up to 80 per cent of the cleaning costs at each worksite, capped at a grant of $10,000.)
Once DH/DET contact you, they will advise you what to do. 
 
Additional resources

If you have to close your service, you must also report the closure within 24 hours to:

You may claim CCS for all enrolled children during the time you are closed and you are permitted to waive any gap fees while closed by order of the Department of Health.

Updated 19 October 2021

Who is a close contact of a person with COVID-19?

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 has information about each scenario of who might be a close contact or a secondary contact and whether and for how long they will need to self-isolate. Please check this page for current advice, as it changes frequently.

Close contact means (more detail as per the COVID-19 Close Contacts Spreadsheet for Victorian Workplaces):

  • having face-to-face contact, or being within 1.5 metres of a person with COVID-19
  • sharing a closed space* for more than a total of one hour during their infectious period.

* being in the same office space, shared work zone or meeting room for 1 hour or more (calculated over the entire infectious period)

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)

The department may require other people who don’t necessarily meet the above definitions to quarantine following a risk assessment of each situation.

 

Reviewed 19 October 202

Financial Support for individuals

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.

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.

  • Covid-19 Disaster payment: a lump sum payment to help workers unable to earn income due to a COVID-19 state public health order. This may involve a lockdown, hotspot or movement restrictions. How much they can get will depend on their location and individual circumstances.

  • $450 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment - click here for details of this Victorian Government payment that may be available for workers who are in isolation while awaiting test results

  • Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment - click here for details of this Federal Government payment potentially available for workers who have COVID-19, or are a close contact or care for a child 16 years or under who has COVID-19 or is a close contact of a person with COVID-19 
This webpage Getting Help during Coronavirus may be useful if you are not clear which payment applies to you or your team.
 
For further information about financial support available for individuals, families and businesses please click here for details
 
Updated 16 September 2021

ECEC - COVID-19 testing requirement

COVID Surveillance Testing

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated ECEC staff moving between Restricted Areas (any area subjected to lockdown) and Non-Restricted Area (non-lockdown areas) are required to undertake COVID surveillance testing. ECEC staff do not need to have symptoms to obtain a test. 

  • The first test needs to occur within 72 hours after crossing the restricted and regional area boundary. Test every 72 hours after the first test (no more than two tests per week).
  • Staff do not need to isolate following their test and can attend work while waiting for their test result.
  • Wherever possible, employers should provide support and information to staff to assist them in meeting this requirement.

NOTE: Fully vaccinated staff are no longer required to comply with the testing requirements.

NOTE: the requirement for testing continues until 5 November (80% double vaccinated step of the roadmap)

Updated 19 October 2021

Worker - childcare permit template

Regional Victoria

Workers in most areas of regional Victoria are no longer required to carry an authorised worker permit. ECEC services are open for all children.

Melbourne and Mitchell Shire & City of Latrobe

Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire and, from 11:59pm on 28 September the City of Latrobe, are operating on the same restrictions, except that there is no curfew in Mitchell Shire & the City of Latrobe.

Authorised worker permits are required to leave the home for authorised work as listed on the Authorised Provider and Authorised Worker list.

  • All workers on the authorised provider and authorised worker list must carry a permit when they leave the house for work and it must be certified by their employer.
  • Permits are available at Authorised Provider and Authorised Worker Permits.
  • Permits must be carried by people travelling for work. The permits do not need to be printed but must be presented on request. You may show an image of the permit on your mobile phone, and you must carry photo ID.
  • Authorised workers are permitted to travel to and from work even when the curfew is in place.

Rules for travel between regional Victoria & restricted areas of Victoria

  • Staff who live in a restricted area will still require an Authorised Workers Permit to work in regional Victoria.
  • Staff who live in regional Victoria will still require an Authorised Workers Permit to work in a restricted area
  • Families with children who live in a restricted area but attend an ECEC service in regional Victoria will not be able to attend on-site education and care unless they are already attending through the vulnerable, working single parent or authorised worker categories.
  • Staff who live in regional Victoria can travel to work in an ECEC service in a restricted area

 

Updated 30 September 2021

Fees & Absences (DESE)

Gap fee waiving - Services in a hotspot

Update: DESE has advised that gap fee waiving measures will be available to services in metropolitan Melbourne until 5 November.

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.

Metropolitan Melbourne

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.

Extra absences

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).

Ending enrolments

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

This rule won’t apply for families that choose to end their enrolment during a hotspot of more than 7 days, from 12 July 2021.

There are important steps providers must take to end the enrolment in this situation.

Learn what to do if a family ends their enrolment during a hotspot.

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

 

Updated 19 October 2021

Business Continuity Payments August 2021

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.

PwC/ABLA Presentation

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.

Payments

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.

Conditions
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 27 September 2021

Victorian Government Grants & Programs

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

Updated 27 September 2021

Scanning with QR Codes

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 9 July 2021

DET Updates

COVID safe plan required

All businesses that are allowed to remain open must have a COVID safe plan which is regularly updated.

 
Reviewed 30 September 2021

Templates

During the height of the pandemic ACA and partners produced a number of templates that you may like to access.

 
Updated 30 September 2021

Member Presentations

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

 

2020 Presentations

 

IR Advice

During the pandemic our IR partner ABLA has produced advice to support decision making around staffing issues:

 

2020 Advice

Financial assistance - 2020

Mental health resources