The Federal Government has announced it will provide additional targeted support for thousands of child care providers impacted by extended COVID-19 lockdowns, through new fortnightly payments.
Child care services in Commonwealth-declared hotspots will be eligible for payments of 25 per cent of their pre-lockdown revenue. Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) services will be eligible for payments of 40 per cent.
This will apply to services seven days after the hotspot is declared, where states have directed families to keep their kids at home.
Where kids are still allowed to attend, the supports will kick in four weeks after the hotspot declaration.
The measure is in addition to the existing Commonwealth supports, including gap fee waivers which allow Commonwealth Child Care Subsidy to continue even when children are not attending.
The new payments will immediately benefit child care services in affected areas of Sydney.
The supports will also be available for services who meet the criteria in any future extended lockdowns.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the payments would immediately help around 3,600 services caring for almost 300,000 children in Greater Sydney, as well as nearly 900 OSHC services in Metropolitan Melbourne and nearly 300 services in the ACT.
“The child care and early education sector is critically important for Australian families and our economy, and these payments will help keep services open and staff employed,” Mr Morrison said.
“The sector has been doing an incredible job to provide essential care for Australian kids during the pandemic and we are backing them in while attendance rates are down.
“These payments will ensure our high quality child care and early education centres are there on the other side of these lockdowns.”
Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said the payments build on the support already being provided to the sector through the Child Care Subsidy and broader economic supports.
“Giving families additional absence days and allowing gap fee waivers has kept many children enrolled and means services have still been able to receive the Child Care Subsidy even if kids haven’t attended,” Mr Tudge said.
“Importantly the new payments are targeted to services that have seen attendance levels fall by at least 50 per cent and are conditional on centres keeping staff in work and passing on support for families.
“The measures will encourage services to pass on gap fee waivers to parents, meaning those keeping their kids home during lockdown won’t be paying out of pocket costs when they aren’t using the service.
“The package recognises the impact extended lockdowns are having on the sector.”
Payments will be contingent on services:
– expecting attendance below 50 per cent
– waiving gap fees for all families whose children are not attending
– maintaining staffing levels
– agreeing to a fee freeze for the duration of support
– not accessing other Commonwealth Government funded supports
Streamlined payments will be available to services in around two weeks.
Families in affected areas are not required to do anything.