Last updated 6/4/2020

The early childhood education and care sector (ECEC), along with the rest of the community, is concerned about the impacts of the COVID-19 virus. It is already a significant challenge to the families, early childhood educators and providers of early childhood education and care services.

Early Childhood Australia (ECA) is advocating to the government, on behalf of the ECEC sector, and our plan is to identify information useful to early learning services, as you navigate these challenging circumstances and review your contingency plans.

Latest 

BREAKING NEWS:

Monday 6 April, ECA released a statement on its role and government decison-making. See What ECA says below.

Sunday 5 April the Victorian Government announced additional funding for sessional kindergartens for Term 2. Scroll down to find more details or click here for  the Minsiter’s media release.

New FAQs (No. 22-24) and updates to FAQs 1, 3, 4, 11, 12 and 21. Scroll down to find more.

On Friday/Saturday 3-4 April the Federal Department of Education, Skills & Employment (DESE) updated its website overnight, (Friday to Saturday, 3-4 April) adding the detailed information that the early childhood education and care sector has been looking for.

Four significant changes include:

  1. No more CCCF grants: ‘while applications already received for CCCF Special Circumstances for COVID-19 related matters will be considered, no further applications will be taken from 9am on 3 April 2020.’
  2. Applications for higher payments: ‘Those child care providers who do not experience any significant reduction in enrolments as a result of providing child care to essential workers or to disadvantaged and vulnerable children, are able to apply for a higher rate of payments under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package. Providers seeking a higher payment amount should complete an online submission which will be available shortly’. https://www.dese.gov.au/covid-19/childcare/childcare-faq
  3. Absences: ‘Absences will not be counted during the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package period (commencing 6 April 2020) as session reports will not be submitted.
  4. Absent on last day of care: ‘If a child is absent on their last day of enrolment in the period between 23 March 2020 and 28 June 2020 the child care subsidy amount which has been paid to the service will not be recovered from the service or the family.’ See more from DESE here.

PREVIOUSLY

What ECA says

Statement on ECA’s role

Early Childhood Australia has received a lot of comments since the government announced its radical new package for the early childhood education and care sector last week. We’ve also been the subject of much speculation about our role.

While ECA has been constantly advocating on behalf of the sector, we were not invited by the Minister to design the package. ECA did not receive any advance warning about the measures and had no knowledge of the content until the package was announced.

More than a month ago we began talking to the Federal Government about the importance of strong support measures for the sector. We pushed for decisive, urgent action in the face of the sector’s imminent collapse.

We will continue to advocate for the sector’s ongoing viability and for the health and safety of educators and young children. We will also seek more explicit support and directives on safe practices during the pandemic.

We will continue to call for transparent government decision-making and clear messages too.

We appreciate the messages of support from some of you and are glad to see so many writing directly to governments, ministers and members of parliament about their concerns. It’s vital that the government and your parliamentary representatives understand the impact of ‘closed door’ decision-making.

You are also welcome to send your modelling and examples to us at policy@earlychildhood.org.au to inform our ongoing advocacy to government.

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect our sector and the community for many more months. There is a lot of work ahead and many questions to be answered.

Thank you for your dedication and professionalism in such difficult and uncertain times.

About the government’s decision

On Thursday 2 April Samantha Page CEO of ECA welcomed steps by the government to act on the uncertainty facing the early childhood education and care sector. The Prime Minister announced a support package that ECA hopes will provide greater certainty for the early childhood sector and which ‘tackles many of the big issues services and families have been grappling with for a month’. But we recognise that while the package is good news for some in the sector, the details are still unclear to many and others will not benefit from the announcement. (You can see ECA’s media release (2 April) here).

Key points from the government’s announcement: 

  • Please note: the DESE has updated its website overnight (3-4 April) providing more details on the government’s announcements and how they will operate. You can find the site here.
  • The Federal government will pay 50% of each service’s fee revenue up to the existing hourly rate cap based on the fortnight leading up to 2 March and funding will apply from Monday 6 April.
  • It seems that eligible early childhood services may be able to access both the Job Keeper system as well as funding for service delivery announced today.
  • For full details see the government’s media release and the Department’s site. The new payment scheme is temporary (three months) to be reviewed after one month.
  • Services may now waive gap fees for families who keep children home, and this measure can be backdated to 23 March.
  • ECA knows today’s package will not help everyone. We are concerned about the health and safety of early childhood educators and the children in their care and will urge governments to do all they can to support health and safety.

ECA advocacy for sector

ECA has been constantly in contact with Australian governments around the country and with educators, services and sector leaders calling for more realistic and sustainable measures from the Federal government to support the safety and wellbeing of educators and children as well as secure jobs and financial viability now and for the future.

ECA has secured 166 media items in the last seven days alone, that focus on the issues we’ve been raising, and has achieved a reach of 56 million. This includes 100 radio items featuring Samantha Page advocating for the sector. Some examples of media coverage achieved through the early child sector, ECA or featuring comments and interviews with CEO Samantha Page include:

ECA encourages vulnerable groups to protect themselves

ECA is watching developments closely on government health advice and announcements on COVID-19. Based on the government announcements last night (Sunday 29 March), ECA encourages people in vulnerable groups to consider carefully whether they should be working in face-to-face roles in early childhood settings.

We encourage you to discuss arrangements, leave or alternative work from home options—e.g. programming, planning, communicating with families online—with your manager, director or Co-ordination Unit. Governments around Australia are recommending that several groups should ‘self-isolate at home to the maximum extent practicable’, including:

  • People of any age with an existing chronic health problem, including but not limited to, diabetes, heart, respiratory conditions or suppressed immune systems
  • People living with household members who have any of these risk factors should consider their arrangements
  • Indigenous people aged over 50 should stay home wherever possible for their own protection
  • People aged over 60 with pre-existing conditions (not limited to those above).
  • Please consider this carefully, work out the best options for yourself and discuss with your employer or Co-ordination Unit advisor.

Find a Federal Department of Health list of groups most at risk of infection or most at risk of serious consequences if infected here: bit.ly/3bEczui.

Updates on all COVID-19 government announcements can be found here:
www.australia.gov.au.

Federal government JobKeeper payment

The Australian Government today announced a new JobKeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight, to enable employers to keep paying their staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be eligible for the JobKeeper payment, an employer’s turnover must have fallen by more than 30 per cent over a period of at least a month, compared with the same period in 2019 (eg a fall in turnover for 1-31 March 2020, compared with 1-31 March 2019). Employers can register for the JobKeeper scheme through the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website here. The first payment from the ATO will be made to employers in May 2020, with payments backdated to 30 March 2020.

The JobKeeper payment will be made to private businesses and not-for-profit enterprises. The JobKeeper payment can be used to pay:

  • full-time and part-time staff;
  • sole traders; and
  • casual staff who have been with their employer for 12 months or more.

Employees will be eligible for the JobKeeper payment even if they have been stood down or retrenched since 1 March 2020. Employees who have lost their jobs since 1 March should contact their former employer to register their interest in being reinstated and receiving the JobSeeker payment.

Employers will transfer the JobKeeper payment to their staff through their normal payroll processes.

  • The announcement of the JobKeeper payment comes on top of other decisions by governments and bank in the last couple of days:
  • Commercial landlords will not be able to evict tenants for the next six months, if tenants are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.
  • Banks are willing to defer repayment of business loans for the next six months, on loans up to $10 million.

Federal government coronavirus information session 

The Federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment hosted a COVID-19 webcast for early childhood services. To date no recorded link has been made available by the Department.  
Please see the information and resources below provided during the session:

Resources for support of continuity of care for ECEC services:

  • Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) special circumstances grant opportunities: Education.gov.au/CCCFspecialcircs – NB applications closed as of  9:00am 3 April 2020. 
  • CCCF Special circumstances@dese.gov.au
  • Support for businesses (does not include NFP): Business.gov.au
  • Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws:  Fairwork.gov.au

Official government contacts and websites for services and providers:

What are others saying:

The Greens call for protection of the early childhood sector

Labor’s Shadow Minister, Amanda Rishworth, has urged the government to act more quickly protect the early education sector (28 March) and called on the the Federal Minister to act to save the sector (25 March).

Read Lisa Bryant’s article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald here.

 

Get the FAQs on COVID-19 

Note: Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has assembled the following information from official Australian Government sources. We recommend that all early learning and care services continue to monitor information on the Australian Government’s health and education websites, plus information from local health authorities.

1. What is happening to the Child Care Subsidy? (updated 5/4/20)

The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is being suspended from 6 April 2020. This means that CCS and ACCS will not be paid for at least three months, and likely for longer (up to six months). Instead of receiving CCS and payments from families, early education and care services will receive payments under the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package, which was announced by the Australian Government on 2 April.

Payments under the Relief Package will be set at ‘50 per cent of services’ fee revenue or 50 per cent of the existing hourly rate cap, whichever is lower, for sessions of care in the fortnight preceding 2 March 2020’. However, services can apply for a higher rate of payment. Services that have not experienced a ‘significant reduction in enrolments’ will need to make an online submission to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, supported by documentation. The Department says it is currently developing the online submission page.

For vacation care programs, the payment will be ‘calculated on the equivalent to the average weekly amount for the September-October 2019 school holidays’.

2. Where do I find the details of the Relief Package for the sector?

Details of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package can be found on the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website and factsheet. Follow these links for information, including:

  • eligibility for the Relief Package
  • waiving gap fees
  • enrolment priorities.

3. The new Relief Package isn’t enough to cover our costs – what do we do? (updated 5/4/20)

Please let ECA know. The Relief Package will be reviewed after one month of operation, and we will tell the government (at both the one-month mark and before then) whether it is working and what needs to be fixed.

ECA is aware that 50 per cent of regular fees will not be enough for services to maintain their usual operations, including staffing levels. ECA encourages services that have not experienced a significant fall in enrolments since March to apply to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment for a higher rate of Relief Package payments, as soon as the application process is up and running.

The government has also stated that the new Relief Package should be used in conjunction with the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme. However, this will only be possible for services that are eligible for JobKeeper. ECA is lobbying the government to make access to JobKeeper available to all early education and care services.

JobKeeper wage subsidy

On 30 March 2020, the Australian Government announced the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which will provide eligible employers with $1,500 per fortnight for each employee.

Private businesses and not-for-profit enterprises may be eligible for the JobKeeper payment. The JobKeeper payment can be used to pay:

  • full-time and part-time staff;
  • sole traders; and
  • casual staff who have been with their employer for 12 months or more.

Payments under the scheme should begin in early May, and will be made monthly in arrears.

See the Treasury website for full eligibility requirements and details. You can register for the JobKeeper payments with the Australian Taxation Office. 

Small business and NFP grants

On 22 March 2020, the Australian Government announced additional support measures for small businesses and not for profit organisations with annual turnover less than $50 million. These businesses and organisation will automatically receive grants of $20,000-$100,000, paid in two instalments by the Australian Taxation Office (from late April and late July 2020). Payments will be equal in value to the amount of salary and wages withheld by the employer at the time of payment (with a minimum payment each time of $10,000).

Other business measures

There are also measures that: subsidise trainees’ wages; increase the instant asset write-off threshold; and accelerate depreciation deductions. You can find details on the Treasury website.

 State and territory measures

All state and territory governments have also announced support packages for businesses and individuals. Please check your state or territory government’s website for details.

4. I am a Family Day Care educator – how can I survive on 50 per cent of the CCS hourly fee?

If you are part of an FDC scheme, please contact your scheme office to let them know your circumstances. Each Approved Provider (such as an FDC scheme) will receive funding under the new Relief Package, and may also apply for more than 50 per cent funding if its enrolments have not suffered a significant fall. FDC schemes may also be eligible to apply for the JobKeeperwage subsidy.

5. Does the Relief Package apply to preschools/kindergartens?

No. See our separate FAQ on the support measures available for preschools and kindergartens.

6. Should we be taking new enrolments or giving families extra days?

Services receiving Relief Package funding are required to have ‘at least one active enrolment’ and also to ‘prioritise care to essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children’.

The government has not provided a definition of ‘essential worker’, but the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that anyone with a job is currently considered an essential worker:

‘If you have a job in this economy, then that is an essential job’ – PM Scott Morrison, 2 April 2020.

Early education and care services are being encouraged by the government to contact families who recently cancelled enrolments, to offer them the chance to re-enrol. No gap fee will be charged from 6 April 2020 (and the gap fee can be waived in arrears, from 23 March 2020).

However, the decision on whether to take new enrolments, or to give existing families additional sessions of care, is one for each service to consider. This will depend on your overall income (including JobKeeper and CCCF payments) and your staffing levels, among other factors.

7. Which parents qualify for free places in our service?

Sessions of care are now free for all parents and carers. There will be no means testing and no activity test for the duration of the Relief Package.

8. What should I do if a child at my service develops a high temperature?

Educators should attend to sick children in the usual way. Follow your regular policies on managing illness. Unwell children should remain at home until their symptoms resolve.

As an additional measure, you may wish to inform all parents and carers of the typical symptoms of COVID-19 infection:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing.

9. What if a child at our service is diagnosed with COVID-19?

If you believe that a child or staff member at your service is a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must do two things:

Your Department of Health will instruct you on next steps. Any decision on whether to close your service temporarily should be made in consultation with health officials.

10. If a parent is diagnosed with COVID-19, do we have to close our service?

No. If a parent or carer using your service is diagnosed with COVID-19, their ‘close contacts’ will be advised by health authorities to begin immediate self-isolation. It is likely that members of their household – including children – will be ‘close contacts’ and will therefore be isolated in their home for 14 days. Anyone who is a ‘close contact’ cannot visit or attend your service for the 14-day period of self-isolation.

A ‘close contact’ is someone who has been face to face for at least 15 minutes, or been in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was infectious (including the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared).

If an educator or staff member has had direct close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they may be at risk of infection. Anyone who believes they have had direct close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 should contact their local Department of Health. Health officials will provide further advice.

11. Will early learning and care services be shut down by the government? (Updated 5/4/20)

At this stage, no.

On 23 March 2020, the Australian Government advised that ‘the child care sector remains open except where individual services have been directed to close by health authorities’. The Government is also maintaining its position that schools throughout Australia should remain open.

However, most state and territory governments have declared that students should stay at home where possible. Public schools will remain open for children whose parents must go out to work, and for children experiencing vulnerability. This also applies to preschools and kindergartens that operate within the public school system.

12. In a forced closure, who will pay our educators? (Updated 5/4/20)

On 3 April 2020, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment advised that, ‘if your service is directed to close on public health advice or other valid health and safety reasons’, you will still receive payments under the new Relief Package. If your service is receiving JobKeeper wage subsidies, these will continue to be paid during a temporary forced shutdown.

13. I have older staff and staff with underlying medical conditions. How do I protect them?

On 30 March, the National Cabinet issued the following advice regarding employees at higher risk of illness from COVID-19:

‘National Cabinet endorsed the AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] advice on vulnerable people in the workplace, specifically that the following people are, or are likely to be, at higher risk of serious illness if they are infected with the virus:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • People 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions. Conditions included in the definition of ‘chronic medical conditions’ will be refined as more evidence emerges.
  • People 70 years and older
  • People with compromised immune systems (see Department of Health website).

‘National Cabinet noted that the new AHPPC advice on the higher risk categories for people 65 years and older with chronic conditions had changed based on more up to date medical advice.

‘In addition, National Cabinet endorsed the AHPPC advice that:

  • Where vulnerable workers undertake essential work, a risk assessment must be undertaken.

Risk needs to be assessed and mitigated with consideration of the characteristics of the worker, the workplace and the work. This includes ensuring vulnerable people are redeployed to noncustomer based roles where possible. Where risk cannot be appropriately mitigated, employers and employees should consider alternate arrangements to accommodate a workplace absence.

  • Special provisions apply to essential workers who are at higher risk of serious illness and, where the risk cannot be sufficiently mitigated, should not work in high risk settings.
  • Excluding healthcare settings where appropriate PPE and precautions are adhered to, the

AHPPC considers that, given the transmission characteristics of the virus, the following settings are at higher risk of outbreaks of coronavirus – correctional and detention facilities and group residential settings.

Employers have a legal obligation to try to protect their staff from COVID-19. According to Safe Work Australia, all employers ‘must identify risks at the workplace, and do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate those risks, or where this is not reasonably practicable, to minimise those risks.’

In relation to COVID-19, Safe Work Australia says that ‘You will not be able to completely eliminate the risk of workers contracting COVID-19 while carrying out work. However you must do all that is reasonably practicable to minimise that risk.’ You can find advice on how to do this on the Safe Work Australia website.

14.What hygiene measures do we need to adopt?

Keep practising good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. Most early learning and care services do this anyway! This means:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with a tissue, or cough into your elbow.
  • Dispose of the tissue into a bin and then wash your hands afterwards.
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet and before eating.

Soap and hand sanitiser are both effective at killing the COVID-19 virus, provided you clean hands thoroughly.

15. How often should children be cleaning their hands?

There is no firm advice on this. Health experts say that people should wash their hands ‘often’, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser.

16. How should we be cleaning the physical environment?

The Federal Department of Health advises cleaning frequently touched surfaces with a detergent solution (ie a soap-based product). Surfaces which are touched regularly should be cleaned frequently. This includes: door handles; kitchen and bathroom areas; and telephones. In an early learning environment, you will need to pay attention to toys and other items handled by children.

A hospital-grade disinfectant is only required when cleaning an area that has been visited or occupied by a person diagnosed with COVID-19.

We don’t yet know how long the COVID-19 virus survives on surfaces. According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 virus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may depend on conditions, such as the type of surface and the temperature.

17. What happens to my educators if I have to close my service?

Please check our FAQ on the business support measures that might help you to stay open and able to keep your staff employed.

If you take the decision to close your doors, your educators and other staff may be eligible for the JobSeeker payment, which is being offered by the Australian Government at a new, higher rate.

On 22 March 2020, the Government announced a boost to income support payments (including the JobSeeker Payment) of $550 per fortnight, creating a maximum payment of $1100 per fortnight (depending on eligibility). The Government has also waived the waiting period and the assets test for the JobSeeker Payment.

In addition, all individuals and sole traders will have access to $10,000 from their superannuation account in the period April-June 2020, and a further $10,000 in the period July-September 2020. Note that, once withdrawn, this superannuation will not be replenished by the Government.

You can find further information on these support payments at the Treasury website.

18. Can I still take the children at my service on walking visits to the local park?

It’s unclear, as the advice differs around the country.

You should contact your local Regulatory Authority to seek advice on excursions. Some Regulatory Authorities have advised that all ‘out the gate’ excursions should be cancelled, while other Regulatory Authorities have advised that only excursions to aged care facilities should be cancelled.

19. What is the incubation period for COVID-19, when does someone become infectious and when do symptoms start?

The ‘incubation period’ is the time between being exposed to the virus and the start of symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 has an incubation period of 1-14 days, with the most common incubation period being five days.

People are considered to be infectious once they develop symptoms, and for the 24 hours before they develop symptoms.

COVID-19 spreads through small droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person, which are expelled through coughing or exhaling.

20. We have run out of soap. What do we do?

Please contact your local Regulatory Authority to ask for help in sourcing cleaning supplies, including soap.

The NSW Department of Health advises that there are alternatives to soap that work just as well. These include:

  • Body wash
  • Shampoo
  • Combined body wash/shampoo.

12. What support is there for preschools and kindergartens?

State and territory governments are developing support measures for preschools and kindergartens. You should stay in touch with your local Department of Education for information on current support mechanisms.

Preschools and kindergartens may be eligible for the JobKeeper wage subsidy. See our FAQs relating to JobKeeper. ECA is lobbying the Australian Government to make access to JobKeeper available to all early education and care services.

There are also general business support measures that you might be able to access.

Current support measures for preschools/kindergartens in particular states include:

NSW: The Department of Education will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 30 December 2020 based on information provided in the August 2019 Annual Preschool Census.  This will support funding continuity and viability for services impacted by COVID -19 such as through reduced enrolments.

For mobile preschools on contracts, funding arrangements remain in place as outlined in your funding agreement through to 30 June 2020. Mobile preschool contracts will then be extended to 31 December 2020 to support funding continuity and viability.

NSW community preschools and mobile preschools experiencing severe financial hardship can contact the Department on 1800 619 113 or ecec.funding@det.nsw.edu.au.

Victoria: The Department of Education will continue to provide all existing streams of kindergarten funding: Early Years Management; School Readiness Funding; Kindergarten Inclusion Support; and Preschool Field Officer funding. If services have to close due to coronavirus (COVID-19), service providers will still receive this funding.

In addition, the Victorian Government announced on 5 April 2020 extra funding for sessional kindergartens for Term 2. Each sessional provider in Victoria will receive ‘approximately $485’ for each child enrolled, and parents will not pay any fees in Term 2. This applies to community-based, local government and school providers.

QLD: Community kindergartens and state delivered kindergartens in Queensland observed student-free days from 30 March to 3 April 2020, although they remained open for the children of essential workers and children experiencing vulnerability. The student-free days were designed to allow teachers ‘time to prepare for increased online learning or alternative options if they are needed in term 2’.

The Department of Education had earlier advised that it will continue to pay for the delivery of kindergarten through the Queensland Kindergarten Funding Scheme until the end of December 2020. These funds will be based on semester one forecast. The Department will also be providing additional funding, as an extension of the existing QKFS model to supplement workforce costs. This payment was to be released immediately to kindergartens.

New FAQs

22. What has happened the Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances grants?

The CCCF Special Circumstances grants are no longer available to services affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 3 April 2020 (the day after the Relief Package was announced), the Department of Education, Skills and Employment advised that ‘while applications already received for CCCF Special Circumstances for COVID-19 related matters will be considered, no further applications will be taken from 9am on 3 April 2020’.

23. If a child doesn’t attend on their final day of enrolment, will our service be paid CCS?

CCS payments will only be made until 5 April 2020; from that date, Relief Package payments will replace CCS payments, and sessions of care will be free for all families.

The requirement for children to attend care on their final day of enrolment in order to qualify for CCS has been changed. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment advised on 3 April 2020 that, ‘If a child is absent on their last day of enrolment in the period between 23 March 2020 and 28 June 2020 the child care subsidy amount which has been paid to the service will not be recovered from the service or the family’.

24. We haven’t been operating for 12 months/Our turnover was artificially high last year – can we get JobKeeper payments?

To be eligible for JobKeeper wage subsidy payments, businesses generally need to demonstrate a fall in turnover of 30 per cent (or 50 per cent) over the course of one month, compared with the same one-month period in the previous year (eg from March 2019 to March 2020).

However, the Australian Tax Commissioner has discretion to grant JobKeeper payments to other businesses, too. The Australian Government advises that:

‘Where a business was not in operation a year earlier, or where their turnover a year earlier was not representative of their usual or average turnover, (e.g. because there was a large interim acquisition, they were newly established or their turnover is typically highly variable) the Tax Commissioner will have discretion to consider additional information that the business can provide to establish that they have been significantly affected by the impacts of the Coronavirus.’

The government has not provided advice on how to lodge a request for additional consideration. ECA suggests that services check the ATO contact page.

ECA Webcasts

ECA is regularly holding webcasts and Facebook live sessions to provide up-to-date information about COVID-19 and related government announcements. Due to the rapidly changing situation, the information provided in the live webcasts may not be current. Therefore, ECA will remove webcasts from our Facebook feeds when they are no longer relevant.

The webcasts below are still available but  no longer provide current information.

Viewers are encouraged to get third-party professional advice before making decisions about business operations.

Food supplies

Some ECEC services are having difficulty ordering food and other groceries from their usual supplier. This appears to be largely due to widespread public fear of COVID-19 and the potential need for periods of isolation.  Some consultation with people in the food services industry suggests there are no significant supply issues per se, but the supply chain is experiencing unusual demand pressures. (Watch an interview with Cathy Harris, Chair of Harris Farm, who says Australia has the groceries it needs and there is no need to panic. Click here to find the ABC 7:30 interview).

Are you buying wholesale? You may have to buy larger quantities but they generally have good online ordering systems and regular delivery. Can you band together with other ECEC providers in your area to buy in bulk from wholesale suppliers? This could be an option to switch to, you may have to buy larger quantities but they generally have good online ordering systems and regular delivery options. Another option is to purchase from local market grocers who will often deliver during the week, or specialty suppliers with a social purpose such as ‘Who Gives a Crap’ for toilet paper (currently out of stock but hopefully not for too long).

Wholesale suppliers and local market grocers listed below:

Please send us your suggestions to add to this list or tell us how you are managing to secure essential supplies. You can email us at thespoke@earlychildhood.org.au or follow us on facebook: www.facebook.com/earlychildhoodaustralia.

Wash your hands videos and songs

What’s your favourite hand-washing song with young children? Here’s one we found from the Wiggles and another from The Singing Walrus. We will keep posting new hand-washing songs here and on the ECA Facebook page for you to use and share. And we’d love to hear from you about the songs, rhymes and other strategies you have for teaching very young children hygiene practices including how to wash their hands thoroughly—and happily!

Impacts for children, pregnant women and translated resources

Watch this explainer video from the Australian Academy of Science about how children are affected by COVID-19.

Information for pregnant women was provided in a statement from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on 16 March 2020. Click here.

For families and staff who need information in community languages the Commonwealth Department of Health provides a range of translated resources that you can download, print or listen to online. Click here to find materials in several languages including Arabic, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Farsi, Italian and Korean.

Our advocacy

Together with other peaks, we wrote to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Education a few weeks ago. Our letter underlined the critical importance of the early childhood sector to young children, families, and the Australian community and economy. We called for ‘robust funding mechanisms’ to maintain sector financial viability and ensure children continue their access to early learning. Part of our advocating measures are to ensure affected families are not disadvantaged if a service is required to close due to COVID-19 or if a family needs to self-isolate.

We continue to work closely with the Minister for Education, Skills and Employment, Dan Tehan, to ensure that the needs of the early childhood sector, families and children are understood when devising measures to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 across the community.

Early childhood services can stay informed with fact sheets and updates from the Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment the Department of Health and the World Health Organization. You can also read the government’s business package announcement here.

As the situation evolves, we will seek ways to provide information and support to the sector, over the next weeks and months.

  • You can revisit this page to check for updates
  • Subscribe to ECA’s fortnightly e-newsletter WebWatch which will feature updates on ECA’s COVID-19 response, or
  • Visit ECA’s blog site, The Spoke.
  • You can subscribe to both WebWatch and The Spoke here.

Government announcement

Changes to the Minister’s Rules—known as Child Care Subsidy Amendment (Coronavirus Economic Response Package) Minister’s Rules 2020—have been published. The key points are:

  • A child will be allowed an extra 20 allowable absences for 2019-20, bringing the total up to 62 days. This is scheduled to take effect around 19 April.
  • Parents will not require a medical certificate to claim additional absences (on top of the 62 days). This is scheduled to take effect in the next few days.

Documents with full details can be accessed on the Federal Register of Legislation.

Prime Minister announcement—18/03/2020

  • On 18 March 2020 the Prime Minster, Scott Morrison, announced more measures to deal with the spread of COVID-19 across the community. Briefly the Federal government’s advice is:
  • For the moment, schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services remain open but children and teachers should continue practising good hygiene.
  • No school groups of any size should visit aged care facilities, with children under 16 years of age only visiting family in aged care services, by exception.
  • Non-essential indoor gatherings are to be limited to 100 people (ECEC service delivery is essential but sector meetings, conferences and events are not essential).
  • Australians are advised not to travel abroad.

Read the PM’s media statement about COVID-19 in full here or find more at abc.net.au, here.

Resources from government

The resources below and share them online or at your service!

Posters

Videos

Additional resources

ABC content

ABC Kids and Early Education Content

Educators looking for suggestions for families: ideas and inspiration for at home activities (things to make and do with children).

Kids Listen Content:

If your service isn’t going on excursions at the moment, check out these alternative resources to get active.

ABC Education

Useful articles for educators of any age group/read and share/ideas when engaging with families.