Clarification delivered about ECEC Relief Package for FDC and IHC services
Family day care (FDC) and In-home care (IHC) services have received clarification about the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Relief Package following the 2 April announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan regarding the replacement of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) system previously in place.
While the package complements a wider range of initiatives already announced by the Australian Government including the JobKeeper Payment measure, questions arose from both the FDC and IHC components of the broader ECEC sector in relation to how the package would apply in their unique circumstances.
The following information has been provided by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment to support deeper understanding of the package as it applies to these subsets.
To receive the ECEC Relief Package payments a service must remain open unless they have been directed to close by a health official or state regulatory authority. This stipulation is for all service types, including FDC and IHC.
Services of all types must ensure that families are not charged a fee, including an out of pocket or gap fee. Priority care must be given to essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children.
Services must continue to record attendance of children, and comply with all other provider obligations including National Quality Framework and other relevant conditions of approval under Family Assistance Law.
Funding – how, when and where?
Payments will be made on a weekly basis at the provider/service level. Consistent with the previous arrangements for the Child Care Subsidy, payments will not be made to educators.
Approved providers are responsible for administering the payment, including making decisions about how to apply payment amounts to individual educators. As business owners, approved providers have been asked by the Department to explore options to support their business model and their educators.
Further information about the range of supports available to providers is available here.
Are educators expected to take a 50 per cent pay cut?
Viability payments to approved providers are based on the lower of 50 per cent of service fee revenue or 50 per cent of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap, based on the fortnight before 2 March 2020, as with all ECEC services who were previously eligible for CCS.
Educators may be eligible for the fortnightly JobKeeper Payment to cover their wage, however in the instance that this is not the case, FDC and IHC educators may be eligible for additional exceptional circumstances payment assistance. Applications will be required to address some key criteria. An online application form will be available shortly.
More details about this assistance is available in the information sheet Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for early childhood education and care providers and services.
Social distancing and home-based care
Some FDC and IHC educators have expressed concern about their workplace and their family home environment being one and the same, in light of recommendations about social distancing and isolation, particularly given that many educators will soon have older children, either their own, or those booked in for vacation care, in the home also.
Educators who have implemented health and safety measures in accordance with the relevant health advice may not be able to continue offering care to the same number of children as they did under the Child Care Package.
A representative from the Department noted that the Government “listened to the concerns of peak industry organisations for the child care sector” and would “continue to work with peak bodies to address issues as they arise”.
Re-enrolling families who are now seeking free care
Under the ECEC Relief Package, services must prioritise care to children of essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and children who were previously enrolled. There is no obligation for services to take on new families, increase hours of care or re-enrol those that have withdrawn if services do not have enough staffing to provide care or cannot meet health and safety obligations. Prioritising of new children (if capacity exists) is a business decision, the Department said.
Catering for increased enrolment, change in demand
In the event that a FDC or IHC educator is providing additional care, above that which was being provided during the reference period, they are able to apply to receive an exceptional circumstances payment at a higher rate.
“FDC and IHC services are already coping with a surge in enrolments as essential workers have sought flexible childcare options for their pre-school aged children and their primary aged children who are no longer going to school,” the Department noted.
Are approved providers able to charge educators fees to keep the service running?
“Any type of internal fee arrangement between a FDC service and an educator is a commercial business arrangement. The Government does not regulate or intervene on matters between educators and services,” the Department said.
As part of broader messaging around the COVID-19 response the Prime Minister has appealed to all businesses to “look at their rate of fees and charges and see if they can reduce them in recognition of the unprecedented times being experienced”.
Is the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) still available?
Providers who are currently receiving a CCCF grant will continue to receive this, as they were prior to the changes – there will be no change to this agreement.
The ECEC Relief Package relates to the CCS and Additional Child Care Subsidy under the previous system. Applications for CCCF Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity previously lodged with the department for COVID-19 related matters are currently being considered. This grant opportunity closed on 3 April 2020.
Educators who require additional information about the ECEC Relief Package should contact their approved provider in the first instance, the Department said.
The Sector maintains a wide variety of information and resources in relation to COVID 19, which can be accessed through our dedicated COVID news section, here.