Child care gap fee waiver for COVID-19 closures
Child care gap fee waiver for COVID-19 closures
COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, and although the government says child care services should remain open unless otherwise directed, with risk-reducing measures in place, sometimes doors have to close for the good of everyone’s health.
A service might temporarily close in response to a COVID-19 case, or because of wider restrictions announced by a state or territory government to quell a local outbreak. Whatever the reason, a child care closure puts pressure on working families and centre operators, but there is some good news.
The Federal government has extended the gap fee waiver provision for child care services nationwide, and this means that if your service is advised or directed to close by a local authority due to COVID-19, it can waive gap fees until 31 December, 2021.
This takes some of the worry out of a child care closure, so let’s see what it means for families, and how you can stay up-to-date with current COVID-19 restrictions and closures.
How does the gap fee waiver work?
If your family is eligible for the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), then the government pays this money straight to your child care provider to reduce the fees you personally have to pay.
The outstanding amount is called the ‘gap fee’ or ‘out-of-pocket fee’, and although you’re usually obliged to pay this co-contribution fee under Family Assistance Law if you receive the CCS, the gap fee waiver provision enables your service to give you fee relief if they’re advised or directed to close by a local authority because of COVID.
This year’s gap fee waiver was scheduled to end on 30 June, 2021, but in light of continuing COVID outbreaks, the government has extended it until the very end of this year.
On a related note, you can continue to get the CCS for days your child is absent from a child care session they would normally attend (e.g. if they’re sick or it’s a public holiday). You get up to 42 absence days per child, per year, and you can access additional allowable absences if your child care service is in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot and the declaration extends for more than seven days.
In this case, you won’t have to use your 42 days of allowable absences during lockdown – you can save them for a later date – and additional allowable absences will be available until the declaration ends.
What other COVID-related child care assistance may be available?
The Federal government has had to be agile in supporting Australians through the pandemic and it recognises that, ‘Sometimes, [local COVID-19] restrictions may affect a child care service’s ability to remain open, or a family’s ability to attend.’
It says, ‘At such times, we will monitor the situation and work with local governments and key peak organisations from the sector to consider whether measures of support are needed.’
In the meantime, some CCS families will be eligible for the Temporary Financial Hardship Subsidy if COVID-19 has badly impacted their finances in the last six months and ‘substantially reduced [their] ability to pay child care fees.’
It’s also worth checking the other COVID-related payments and support available to Australians here.
Where can you find current information about COVID-19 restrictions and child care centre closures?
In this pandemic, we’ve seen how circumstances can change by the moment, and the best way to stay up-to-date with restrictions and closures in your area is to keep an eye on your state or territory COVID-19 information website:
- New South Wales (click here for child care info)
- Victoria (click here for child care info)
- Queensland (click here for child care info)
- Western Australia
- South Australia
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
You’re encouraged to contact your child care centre operator directly if you need advice and information about the effect of local restrictions on your service.
And because closures can happen suddenly, it’s important to plan for this possibility ahead of time (e.g. by considering how you’ll balance work and child care at home).
The Australian government makes it easy to track current restrictions, with its COVID-19 Restriction Checker (just search for ‘Education and Childcare,’ then click on your state or territory).
The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) also provides a mapping tool showing the open/closed status of approved early childhood education and care services around the country.
This is very useful because it covers closures caused by health emergencies (including the pandemic) and also by localised issues, bushfires, floods and cyclones.
If your child can’t attend their service because of a COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown, Starting Blocks has some resources to help you:
There are also resources to support your wellbeing as you parent through a pandemic; and although we can’t necessarily control how COVID will affect our lives, the gap fee waiver does give us one less thing to worry about in the case of a child care centre closure.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 09 August 2021
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