Help is available for families and early childhood education and care services in the event of an emergency, like bushfires, storms, or floods. Support includes gap fee waivers, extra absences and support for service closures.
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Last updated on 20/10/2022
What is a period of emergency?
A period of emergency applies for an event which:
- affects a widespread area
- has a severe impact on the lives of a significant number of the people in that area
- prevents children from attending a service or may make attending dangerous.
All three conditions must be met to qualify as a period of emergency.
Events that are not considered a period of emergency include:
- localised storm damage or minor flooding.
In an emergency, you must make decisions that prioritise the health and safety of the workers and children at your service.
For the latest on COVID-19, go to COVID-19 and early childhood education and care.
Declaring a period of emergency
We’ll notify providers and services when a period of emergency is declared. We’ll let you know what regions the period of emergency covers and the dates that it applies.
Make sure your contact details, particularly email addresses, are up to date in the Child Care Subsidy System. Check this via the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or your third-party software.
Support during a period of emergency
When we declare a period of emergency, providers, services and families can access a range of support measures.
Families who receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) must ordinarily make a co-contribution to their child care fees under Family Assistance Law. They do this by paying the gap fee.
During a period of emergency, you can waive the gap fee for families if a child does not attend care, including if your service is closed as a direct result of the emergency. Gap fee waivers do not apply for partial closures or if children have attended part of the day.
Families can get CCS when their child is absent from care for up to 42 days per financial year. We increased the absence count to 52 days for the 2021–22 and 2022–23 financial years.
During a period of emergency, families in affected regions won’t have to use their annual allocation of allowable absences.
Children who live or attend a service in an affected region will get extra allowable absences for the duration of the period of emergency.
These absences will be automatically applied in the Child Care Subsidy System if we declare a period of emergency.
The following Family Assistance Law provisions will continue to apply during the period of emergency:
- absences must occur between a child’s first and last physical attendance at your service, unless an approved reason applies
- a child’s enrolment will end if they do not attend care for 14 weeks in a row – this is known as the 14-week rule.
The following support will be available following the period of emergency:
- families can get additional absences if they’ve exhausted their allocation for the year
- for 28 days after the end of a period of emergency, if a child is unable to attend
- for 7 days after the end of a period of emergency, if a family decides the child should not attend
- families can get CCS for absences that occur in the 7 days before their first, or after their last, attendance.
Information for families about absences is available on the Services Australia website.
We don’t usually pay CCS when a service is closed.
During a period of emergency, you will continue to receive CCS payments if you close as a direct result of the emergency. For example, if your service is not safe to enter or staff are unable to travel to the service because of the emergency.
If your service remains closed following the period of emergency, you cannot continue to receive CCS payments.
If your service is able to operate during the period of emergency but you decide to remain closed, you won’t receive CCS.
You must tell us if you temporarily close your service, for any reason and for any period. Do this via the PEP or your third-party software.
You also need to tell your state or territory regulatory authority.
Your state and territory government may have rules on when and how communities should protect themselves during an emergency. For guidance on whether to close during an emergency, please contact your state or territory regulatory authority.
Families can search for vacancies at approved services on StartingBlocks.gov.au.
Caring for displaced children
You can take on displaced children from another service during a period of emergency. CCS will be paid as per any other enrolled child.
You must not exceed your licensed number of places when taking on displaced children. If you need more places, contact your state or territory regulatory authority.
Supporting employees involved in emergency efforts
Find information about employees who engage in eligible community service activity, such as volunteer firefighters, on the Fair Work website.
Find information about employees who are Defence Reservists on the Defence Reserves Support website.
Your state and territory government may provide further advice about how employers can support employees undertaking emergency efforts.
Preparing for an emergency
Emergencies can strike without warning. It's important to prepare for all sorts of emergencies and plan for your risk.
It is a good idea to identify the types of disasters you are exposed to and the likelihood of these occurring, and make sure you have an appropriate level of insurance in place.
Business.gov.au has a range of resources to help you plan for emergencies, including:
- How to prepare your business for an emergency
- How to prepare an emergency management plan
- What to do in an emergency
Recovering after an emergency
Community Child Care Fund
The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) special circumstances grant helps services stay open when something unexpected happens, such as an emergency. You can apply for a special circumstances grant when an emergency or disaster threatens your ability to stay open.
Additional Child Care Subsidy
Families experiencing temporary financial hardship due to an emergency that happened in the last 6 months may be eligible for Additional Child Care Subsidy.
Other government payments
The Australian Government provides a range of payments and services for individuals recovering from a major disaster. Find information about payments during an emergency is available on the Services Australia website.
Mental health support
Emergencies and disasters can have a profound impact on mental health. Knowing how to look after yourself, and others, is important for recovery.
Find mental health resources on the Be You website.
More information by state and territory
Find more information about emergencies on DisasterAssist.