ACA NSW issues advice for ECEC services after NSW tightens COVID restrictions
The New South Wales branch of the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) has issued a notice to its members which aims to clarify the announcements made by the NSW Government over the weekend regarding COVID-19 restrictions for the Greater Sydney region (including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour).
In the summary of information provided, representatives from ACA NSW curated updated NSW Public Health Orders and associated Amendments, producing a summary which is specific to early childhood education and care services (particularly their Approved Providers, educators, teachers and support personnel).
The announced restrictions are in effect until 11.59 pm on Friday, 30 July 2021, with a number of the restrictions specific to a particular Local Government Area (LGA). To determine which LGA a service is in, or which educators are from, ACA NSW recommends one of the following links: Find Your Local Council or view the maps of the Fairfield LGA, the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA or the Liverpool LGA.
Can services stay open?
Firstly, early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are not retail premises (see definition of retail premises in the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Amendment (No 8) Order 2021 (dated 17 July 2021)) and therefore can continue to operate (see Clause 24(1)(k) and Schedule 2, Item 11 of Exempted Gatherings of the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021).
Can educators leave home to come to work?
Approved Providers, educators, teachers and support personnel of ECEC services are recognised as Authorised Workers and therefore can continue to work (see Item 19 of NSW Health’s List of Authorised Workers (as of 17 July 2021)).
Can parents pick up and drop off children?
Parents/guardians (regardless of whether they are or are not from the Fairfield LGA, Canterbury-Bankstown LGA or Liverpool LGA) are allowed to drop-off at and pick-up their children from ECEC services. (See Schedule 1, Item 3 of the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021.)
Do educators need to be tested? If so, how often?
Some ECEC personnel will need to be COVID tested before they can be allowed to enter their workplaces:
- those who live/reside in the Fairfield LGA, or the Canterbury-Bankstown LGA or Liverpool LGA who work outside of their LGA, must be tested every 72 hours (ie 3 days) and be able to provide evidence of the test (eg SMS text message or e-mail) to their employer or police officer (see Clause 24B(2) of the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 and Item 14 for new Clause 24E of the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Amendment (No 8) Order 2021.
- those who live/reside in Greater Sydney (including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour) region and work in ECEC services more than 50 kms outside Greater Sydney must be tested every 7 days and be able to provide evidence of the test (eg SMS text message or e-mail) to their employer or police officer (see Clause 24(B)(2) of the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 and Item 14 for new Clause 24(E) of the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Amendment (No 8) Order 2021.
How can services stay viable?
For the immediate term, funding to assist the continuation of ECEC services may be a combination of:
- parents/guardians paying normal fees for their children in attendance;
- applying absent days plus the gap fee for children not attending;
- use of the optional waiver of gap fees;
- parents/guardians applying for Additional Child Care Subsidy (Temporary Financial Hardship);
- parents/guardians and staff applying for the COVID-19 Disaster Payment ($375-$600/week) if eligible;
- services may be eligible for the Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances Grant (up to $150,000);
- services experiencing a 30 per cent decline in annual turnover (compared to the same period during pre-pandemic times (ie in 2019) can receive a payment of up to $10,000 per week to cover up to 40 per cent of their payroll costs; and,
- services that can apply for a NSW COVID-19 Business Grant of between $7,500 and $15,000 to cover the first three-weeks of restrictions (i.e. 28 June 2021 to 16 July 2021) if its wages are below $10 million.
Given the effects of these lockdown restrictions, ACA NSW is seeking further flexibility and/or financial and non-financial support for children, services and parents.
Other relevant restrictions
- Anyone who leaves the home must have a mask with them at all times. Masks must also be worn when ECEC professionals are interacting with parents/guardians in person while social distancing. Masks are needed any time when educators and other professionals are not interacting with children under their care, e.g. during administrative activities while at ECEC services.
- From 12.01 am on Wednesday, 21 July 2021, all employers must allow their employees to work from home if the employee is able to do so. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
For any further information/clarification, ACA NSW members are invited to contact the ACA NSW team on 1300 556 330 or [email protected].