Vic Level 3 Restrictions: Guidance for providers
Vic Level 3 Restrictions: Guidance for providers
In the wake of a second round of COVID-19 infections in some parts of Victoria the government has reintroduced Stage 3 restrictions in a bid to stem the rate of community transmission.
To this end, Victorian early education and care services in areas subject to Stage 3 COVID-19 restrictions are permitted to waive parent gap fees if children are not attending care for COVID related reasons.
This includes services in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
The government says that waiving the parents’ gap fees will ensure child care services maintain their enrolments and continue to be paid the CCS, even if a child is absent for a COVID-related reason. It will also ensure that early childhood services remain open for workers and vulnerable families.
From Monday, services can also access the $708 million Transition Payment to support the return to the CCS.
The reimposed Level Three restrictions remain in effect until Wednesday 19 August 2020 and mean that people living in affected postcodes can only leave home for four reasons:
- Shopping for food and essential supplies
- Care and caregiving
- Study or work
During this time all early childhood education and care services in these restricted postcodes should continue to operate, except where there is a confirmed case of a child or staff member with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Children and staff who live outside the restricted postcode area can continue to attend services within the restricted postcodes and children and staff who live in a restricted postcode can continue to attend services outside the restricted postcodes.
If a service is directed to close as a preventative measure (whether in a locked down suburb or elsewhere), it is required to report the closure to the Regulatory Authority as follows:
- All services, including family day care, are required to 'notify the Regulatory Authority within 24 hours of any incident that requires the approved provider to close or reduce the number of children attending the service for a period'.
- You need to lodge a notification through the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS) within 24 hours of closure.
The Australian Childcare Alliance Victoria has prepared a list of frequently asked questions for services operating under the Stage 3 restrictions which are provided below.
Note that the guidance below only relates to Victorian ECEC services located in the Metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire currently experiencing Stage 3 Restrictions.
The guidance is based on current information as at 8th July 2020.
What does the term “COVID-related reasons” mean?
While there has not been a firm definition for this term, we take it to mean families that have decided to keep their children at home in the context of the Stage 3 Restrictions, or families with changing working circumstances due to the COVID-19 climate.
Is it the service's choice whether to waive the gap fee?
Yes - it is at the service provider's discretion.
Does this mean we can waive fees for some absent families but charge fees to others, and if so, what should we consider?
Yes it does. The ACA recommends that you develop a policy to provide a consistent approach to when you do or don’t charge the gap fee and make this clear to your families.
This policy could include items such as:
- Advance notice for absences
- Circumstances under which you will waive gap fees e.g. Family being tested for COVID-19, full week absences or single day absences
- Decision on whether you will waive the full gap fee or a portion of it
The content of your policy will be a service by service decision based on your location, your service’s financial position, community demographic, occupancy and attendance levels.
For any families experiencing financial difficulties, recommend them to Centrelink for possible assistance. They may be eligible for the ACCS Temporary Financial Hardship and/or the Activity Test Exemption (ie .100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight).
How do we deal with families accessing CCS from Monday who have not previously attended and accessed CCS?
If they have not already done so, you should encourage these families to register ASAP and confirm their enrolment. Ensure you apply normal enrolment procedures to make sure they are set up for CCS payments.
For children who haven’t attended your centre prior to the first week of “free childcare” (Monday 6th April 2020), they will need to trigger the activation of their CCS by attending at least one session this week.
If this does not occur, and they then decide not to attend for a COVID-related reason, they will not have CCS applied, leaving both themselves and the centre out of pocket.
Cessation of care – what are the new rules?
Below is the guidance from DESE.
From 13 July 2020, CCS will be payable if a child is absent up to seven days before or after an enrolment (including the first/last day of care), for any of the following reasons:
- any of the additional absence reasons
- the child, the individual who cares for the child, the individual’s partner or another person with whom the child lives is ill (no medical certificate required if the child has not used 42 absence days)
- the service has changed ownership
- the usual service is closed, and the child is attending a different service under the same provider
- a family tragedy (a major event including the death of an immediate family member) has occurred
- the enrolment ceased incorrectly.
Do COVID-related absences beyond 13 July count as part of their allowable 42 days?
Yes. When these have been used, you may wish to apply for additional absences using the COVID-related reasons or other relevant reasons as per the standard conditions of additional absences.
Will there be any increase to the 42 days for these families?
The ACA is not aware of any increases at this stage.
Can a family within the Stage 3 Restriction zones (ie. Metro Melbourne/Mitchell Shire region) take their child/children to care outside these regions?
Yes – as per the Stage 3 Restrictions guidelines, leaving the home to go to work and education (if can’t be done at home) are acceptable reasons for leaving the house. You can direct your families to the Stage 3 Restrictions which apply to Melbourne/Mitchell Shire here.
If my service is located outside the lockdown regions, can I waive the gap fees?
No - centres outside the lockdown region cannot waive the gap fees.
Is there a chance that JobKeeper could be extended?
No. The 25% Transition Payment has been designed to help more services more equitably than JobKeeper.
The Government will also ease the activity test until 4 October to support eligible families whose employment has been impacted as a result of COVID-19. These families will receive up to 100 hours per fortnight of subsidised care during this period. This will assist families to return to the level of work, study or training they were undertaking before COVID-19.
Families experiencing a loss of income, such as casual workers or those in self-isolation, may be eligible for support through the Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship).
The Federal Government continues to work closely with the Victorian state Department of Education in relation to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020
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