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, face mask requirements, contactless check-in (where possible) and practising good hand hygiene.
- Face masks are required by visitors in an indoor space
- Staff are required to wear face masks when not working with children in common areas. It is not compulsory for staff to wear face masks while teaching or caring for children as they can interfere with their ability to clearly communicate with children. While teaching or caring for children, staff can choose to wear face coverings if they wish. 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 1 December 2021
The COVID-19 Contact Management in ECEC Services Plan has the latest information that you need to manage a case, including template letters and a risk matrix and contact spreadsheet.
COVID-19 Contact Management in ECEC Services
ECEC services will continue the process for identifying contacts at a service, but the ECEC service and contacts will no longer be contacted by the Department of Health with quarantine requirements.
- Confirmed COVID-19 cases will be required to notify their ECEC service that they are a positive case.
- 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 but only in the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or receipt of positive test if asymptomatic (no symptoms).
- A Department staff member will contact the service to discuss the notification.
- Services will be given information to support them to inform staff and parents / carers swiftly when a positive COVID-19 case has been identified.
- The service will be required to notify individuals that they are a contact of a positive case and advise them that there are two options:
a. If symptomatic, they are required to obtain a PCR test and quarantine until they receive a negative result.
b. If non-symptomatic, they may return on-site to ECEC. Rapid antigen tests daily for 5 days following notification of an exposure is strongly encouraged.
6. There is no requirement for the service to close but it may choose to do so to enable identification of individuals, initial testing of staff or for operational reasons (eg. unable to meet regulatory obligations under the National Law).
7. The service will be required to maintain a system to enable them to notify contacts and collect, record and store results of a negative PCR test from an individual prior to their return to the service.
Updated 5 January 2022
Managing a COVID-19 positive person
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.
Non-household contacts are only required to quarantine until they have a standard PCR test and get a negative result.
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.
The PCR test applies to all children and staff who are identified as an education contact and listed on the contact spreadsheet that the ECEC service completes when they’re notified of a confirmed case at a service. For clarification, the ECEC service is no longer required to submit the contact spreadsheet to the local public health unit unless requested.
All education contacts can return to ECEC after they have provided evidence of a negative standard PCR test to their ECEC service. An education contact must take a PCR test within 24 hours of being notified. The contact must remain in self-quarantine until they receive a negative result and notify the ECEC service of the PCR result before their child can return to onsite learning.
It is the responsibility of the ECEC service to collect, record and store the PCR result information. It is recommended that a service uses the contact spreadsheet for record management purposes.
If an education contact attends more than one service, they are required to show the negative test result to each service. Only the service where the positive case attended is required to collect, record and store the test result information.
All education contacts must quarantine until a negative PCR test is received.
If education contacts do not take a PCR test, they are required to quarantine for the following period of time:
- 7 days if they are under 12 years old and all members of their household over 12 years are fully vaccinated
- 14 days if they are over 12 years old and not fully vaccinated
- 14 days if they are under 12 years old and all members of their household are not fully vaccinated.
Please refer to the COVID-19 Contact Management in ECEC Services Plan that has been prepared by the Department to help services support staff, volunteers, contractors and families through the process. The plan includes easy to follow steps, template letters and the ECEC risk matrix and contact spreadsheet.
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 5 January 2022
Rapid Antigen Testing for ECEC services
All education contacts can now return to ECEC after contact notification if either:
- they are asymptomatic or
- they are symptomatic and have provided evidence of a negative standard PCR test to their ECEC service.
It is the responsibility of the ECEC service to collect, record and store the PCR result information. It is recommended that a service uses the contact spreadsheet for record management purposes.
Children and staff identified as an education contact can obtain a free package of 5 rapid antigen tests at PCR testing sites after being notified by the ECEC service. Rapid antigen tests available at retail outlets can also be purchased and used.
If the education contact cannot access rapid antigen tests, they should monitor for symptoms and seek a PCR test if symptoms emerge. More information will be provided by the Victorian Government on access to rapid antigen tests in coming days.
The at-home rapid antigen testing option is strongly encouraged for asymptomatic education contacts.
Education contacts with symptoms should get a PCR test straight away and quarantine until they receive their result.
Any child or staff who return a positive rapid antigen test result should immediately get a PCR test and quarantine until the result.
Household contacts (people who live in the same household as a person with COVID-19) are still required to quarantine for 7 days. They cannot use rapid antigen tests to attend an ECEC service, even if they are asymptomatic.
There is no obligation on the ECEC services to sight the staff or child contact’s rapid antigen test results. The onus and responsibility is on affected staff and families to complete the rapid antigen test on the day of attending service to protect staff, their children, other children and their broader communities.
Information about the new quarantine requirements and strongly recommended rapid antigen testing can be found in a parent letter for you to communicate with all families.
Find out more information on rapid antigen testing.
To participate in the program, a service must first determine that they have capacity to implement a system to collect, record and hold children’s at-home rapid antigen testing results in accordance with the Directions issued by Victoria's Chief Health Officer.
The ECEC Outbreak Management pack has been updated as the COVID-19 Contact Management in ECEC Services (as of 19 November 2021). The pack includes an updated template letter for parents / carers of contacts.
Updated 5 January 2022
All ECEC staff are now required to be fully vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption (see below for updated information). This includes all types of early childhood and care settings.
COVID-19 booster doses
COVID-19 booster doses are now available to anyone aged 18 and over who has had their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine more than four months ago. A COVID-19 booster dose helps prevent waning immunity (loss of protection) against COVID-19.
You can get a COVID-19 booster dose from a GP or pharmacy. You can also get it at a Victorian vaccination centre.
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
Victorians can no longer use a medical certificate as evidence of COVID-19 vaccination exemption.
The only acceptable certification for the purpose of seeking a medical exemption will be an Australian Immunisation Register immunisation medical exemption form that is completed and signed by an authorised medical practitioner.
The form must state that the person is unable to receive a dose, or a further dose, of a COVID-19 vaccine because they have a medical contraindication to all COVID-19 vaccines available for use in Australia and/or they are unable to receive a vaccine due to an acute medical illness (including where the person has been diagnosed with COVID-19).
In line with the COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Specified Facilities) Directions No 11, a COVID-19 digital certificate, or a copy of the immunisation history statement is not acceptable evidence for vaccination exemption.
Updated 5 January 2022
Bookings have now opened for children aged 5-11 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, ahead of the vaccine rollout beginning on Monday 10 January 2022.
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.
The Victorian Government aims to enable all children aged 5 to 11 to receive at least one vaccine dose before the end of January 2022, and a second dose before 8 April 2022.
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: 6 January 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 6 January 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.
Children will have 10 extra allowable absences for the 2021–22 financial year. This is on top of the standard 42 allowable absences and the additional allowable absences provided for families previously in a COVID-19 hotspot. These will be applied automatically.
Gap fee waivers
Services can now waive gap fees for a child that does not attend care because they, or a member of their household, have been directed to isolate due to COVID-19.
This will apply for the duration of the isolation period as specified by the health advice.
Services can also waive gap fees and receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) where a child cannot attend care because the service, or a room within a service, is closed due to COVID-19 on advice from the state or territory government. This will apply for the duration of the closure outlined in the advice.
Services can continue to waive gap fees for children not attending care where a state or territory restricts access to child care in a region. This will apply from day one of restrictions (with any duration of time being eligible).
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 10 November 2021
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