Why did the Government introduce the recently announced Early Childhood and Care (ECEC) Relief Packages?
Due to COVID-19 many services across the early childhood education and care sector were increasingly reporting significant decreases in attendance and enrolments, thereby jeopardising their businesses.
If left unaddressed, this would have led to widespread closures and an inability for essential workers and vulnerable children and families to access quality childcare. Therefore the Government had to act quickly to provide financial assistance to the whole sector to ensure its viability during this crisis and beyond.
This measure will effectively see the CCS system suspended for 12 weeks (until 28 June 2020) as it would have been too complex to use that system to provide business continuity payments to services.
The Government has acknowledged that there are aspects of the ECEC Relief Package that do not align neatly with the unique aspects of the family day care sector. FDCA continues to vigorously advocate solutions to these and is in regular discussion with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. We will continue to keep members up to date as things evolve. Make sure you keep up to date with our member bulletins.
What are the key points I need to understand about the ECEC Relief Package?
- The ECEC Relief Package basically provides base relief payments to services to enable them to stay open during the COVID-19 emergency, thereby giving essential workers as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families access quality early childhood education and care.
- The package is designed to complement the JobKeeper Payment scheme, which is also available to eligible services and educators who are sole traders. The ATO is administering the JobKeeper Payments. Please visit the ATO website for the latest information on how the scheme will work and how to apply.
- The ECEC Relief Package applies to the whole ECEC sector and will replace the usual CCS and ACCS payments from 6 April 2020 until 21 June 2020. Services will not be able to upload session reports to the CCS system while the new payments remain in place. With the exception of providing reports of sessions of care, providers must continue to comply with all existing record keeping and notice giving requirements of Family Assistance Law and the National Quality Framework including but not limited to keeping attendance records and provide statements to families.
- In the family day care sector, the payments under the ECEC Relief Package will be paid at provider/service level, rather than direct to educators, consistent with the way the CCS was previously distributed. Approved providers are therefore responsible for the administration of the ECEC Relief Package Payment including decisions on how to apply the payment to individual educators.
- The base relief payments commenced on 6 April 2020 and will be made to services weekly until 21 June 2020 unless otherwise notified by the department. They will be based on approximately 50% of service’s fee revenue or 50% of the existing hourly rate, whichever is the lower for sessions of care in the fortnight beginning Monday 17 February 2020, regardless of whether children were in attendance. This is called ‘the reference fortnight’.
- The Government has also made supplementary payments at a higher rate available to services where greater funding is required due a range of circumstances. The Government has developed a new online “Supplementary Payment Form” for use by services in these situations. To access the form, click here (scroll to the bottom of the page). Note that the eligibility criteria for the Supplementary Payment have been expanded as of Thursday 30 April 2020. We recommend reading our email bulletin sent to members on Friday, 1 May as well as the Department's latest fact sheet on the Supplementary Payment process before completing the form.