Emergency and natural disaster assistance

Please visit the early childhood education and care COVID-19 information page for details on arrangements for providers and services.

On 17 January 2020, the Minister for Education announced a range of measures to support bushfire-declared communities.  For more information visit the support for bushfire affected communities page.

Local emergencies and support for early childhood education and care

Assistance is available in various types of emergencies and natural disasters, like pandemics, bushfires or floods.

General information on assistance available can be found in the Emergencies and natural disaster fact sheet.

General information on  provider’s reporting requirements during a period of local emergency (additional absences), can be found in the Information for child care providers when a period of local emergency occurs fact sheet.

Mental health support

The Australian Government is committing $8 million through Beyond Blue to provide 25 mental health liaison officers to work with local schools and early childhood education and care services in communities affected by the 2019/20 bushfires, to build capacity and support the health of staff, students, and families.

Support will be tailored to help meet local community needs, and may include:

  • information resources about disaster recovery and positive parenting
  • trauma-informed professional development for educators and other support staff
  • community-based, trauma-informed training sessions for affected parents and carers
  • a Beyond Blue liaison officer to coordinate tailored support and strategies to assist local early childhood education and care and school communities with their recovery needs.

The package will be delivered through the Government’s existing national education initiative to support child and youth mental health, Be You.

Some online mental health and trauma support resources include:

Each state and territory also offer mental health services and programs.

Frequently asked questions

Family Assistance Law defines a period of local emergency as:

  • an event which has occurred and affects a widespread area and has a severe impact on the lives of a significant number of inhabitants of an area; and prevents, or may prevent, children from attending the service, or may make such attendance hazardous (for example, where there is major damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure over a large area such as from a bushfire or flood);

or

  • a disaster declaration is made by a state emergency service, the police, or another Commonwealth, state or territory agency and the disaster prevents, or may prevent, children from attending the service, or may make attendance hazardous (for example, declaration of a catastrophic (code red in Victoria) fire danger rating).

Areas directly affected by the December 2019/January 2020 bushfire disasters clearly satisfy this definition of a local emergency. In addition, nearby areas not directly affected by the bushfires, but that experience conditions that make attendance at a child care service hazardous due to those bushfires, such as, for example, due to air pollution (smoke), also satisfy this definition. 

Services that are forced to close on public health advice due to COVID-19 should follow the standard processes for activating a period of local emergency. This will allow families access to additional absences where children have already used their allowable absences. Services will also be able to waive out of pocket (or gap) fees in the event they are forced to close on public health advice to COVID-19, until 31 December 2020.

For providers and services

Each service needs to make a business decision that is right for their individual circumstances. For general information on assistance available for providers and services when a local emergency or natural disaster occurs, please refer to the Emergencies and natural disaster fact sheet.

Each state and territory has its own rules around when and how communities should protect themselves during a local emergency. Providers are encouraged to contact their state or territory regulatory authority, listed below in the Where can I find more information specific to my state or territory? section, for specific advice and guidance about whether their service should close.

For general information on reporting requirements during a period of local emergency, service closures or a family’s access to additional absences, please refer to the Information for child care providers when a period of local emergency occurs fact sheet.

Business Continuity Payments

Business continuity payments are a short-term, emergency measure intended to allow a service to continue operating until the provider can resume submitting electronic session reports within the required timeframe of 14 days after the end of the week in which a session of care occurred.

Once the provider is able to provide session reports again, any business continuity payments will be offset against Child Care Subsidy payments. For more information visit the Child Care Provider Handbook.

Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity

The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity is designed to support continuity of child care, where service viability is affected by an unforeseen circumstance or event outside the control of the service, such as a natural disaster or extreme weather event, or pandemic.

To be eligible to apply for this funding, the service must be Child Care Subsidy approved and operating in a vulnerable and disadvantaged community.

If you operate a standalone preschool or other state/territory government approved service please contact your state or territory regulatory authority, listed below in the Where can I find more information specific to my state or territory? section.

What activities can be funded under the CCCF Special Circumstances Grant?

There are a number of activities that CCCF Special Circumstances Grant funding can be utilised for including, but not limited to:

  • implementing changes to business practices and/or models, in response to the unforeseen event or special circumstance
  • temporarily contributing to standard child care operating costs to assist with the service remaining open
  • helping with additional costs as a result of the unforeseen event or circumstance
  • addressing health and safety requirements, directly related to an unforeseen event
  • other reasonable activities, as agreed with the department, that are responsive to the needs of the community, or to ensure the service can continue to provide quality child care, such as additional transport services, family engagement, extended hours and other support activities.

Activities that are covered under a relevant insurance policy cannot be funded under the CCCF Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity.

How does a child care provider apply for the CCCF Special Circumstances Grant?

For further information, including eligibility criteria and instructions on how to apply, visit the CCCF Special Circumstances Grant webpage. If you have any questions about the CCCF please contact the CCCF Program team via CCCFSpecialCircumstances@education.gov.au or phone 1300 650 848 on weekdays between 9.00 am – 5.00 pm AEDT.

Support for businesses – Business.gov.au

For other general information on what child care providers or services can do in an emergency, including business and insurance advice and other Australian Government assistance available to you and your employees, visit business.gov.au.

Yes. In such cases, Child Care Subsidy will pay as per any other enrolled child. Please note that services must not exceed their licensed number of places. Should more places be needed, please discuss with your state or territory regulatory authority, listed below in the Where can I find more information specific to my state or territory? section.

 

The Fair Work Act 2009 has provisions for employees who engage in an eligible community service activity. More information can be found at fairwork.gov.au/leave/community-service-leave.

Each state/territory has different information about how employers can support employees undertaking emergency efforts. Please see your local state/territory contacts listed below in the Where can I find more information specific to my state or territory? section.

The Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 requires employers to release employees who are Defence Reservists to undertake Defence service. More information on Reserve Service Protection can be found at Defence Reserves Support.

For preschool and kindergarten services that are not approved child care providers under Family Assistance Law, please see your local state or territory education department contacts below in the Where can I find more information specific to my state or territory? section.

Further support has been made available to families and volunteer firefighters affected by the 2019/20 bushfires. Third parties, such as state/territory governments and charitable organisations, are able to cover the cost of gap fees for families who live in a bushfire-declared local government area (LGAs) and volunteer firefighters who engaged in bushfire fighting activities, without families’ Child Care Subsidy (CCS) entitlement being affected.

Who can benefit from this?

  • Families in LGAs declared eligible for an Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment in respect of bushfires. See impacted LGAs at DisasterAssist.
  • Volunteer firefighters who engaged in bushfire fighting activities.

For what period can they benefit?

  • For families in bushfire-declared LGAs, the measure will be limited to 12 months – from 1 December 2019 to the end of November 2020.

Who can make payments to child care providers to help families with the cost of care?

State or territory governments (or an authority thereof), or a registered charity can make payments to providers to help families with the cost of care.

However, there are two limitations in this measure to charities who can make payments to providers:

  • if the charity is also the entity that provided the session of care, or
  • if the charity is linked to the child care provider (within the meaning of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997).

How does this rule work in practice?

Ordinarily where a third party makes a payment specifically to reduce the amount a parent is required to pay for a session of care, the provider must reduce the session fee by the contribution amount to ensure the parent’s CCS, and their co-contribution, are calculated as required by the legislation.

For example, you charge the Brown family a session fee of $100 per day and their CCS entitlement covers $85. The state government has agreed to contribute the remaining $15 to cover the Brown’s gap fees.

Usually, the $15 from the state government would need to be deducted from the $100 before calculating CCS. This would reduce the CCS to $72.25 and leave a $12.75 co-contribution amount to be paid by the Brown family.

However, because the Brown family live in a bushfire-declared LGA, the state government is able to cover the remaining $15, and there is a zero gap amount for the Brown family to pay.

What do child care providers need to do?

Reporting sessions of care

  • Providers must continue to report sessions of care and fees as per usual.
  • For any families not in the relevant bushfire-declared areas (as per DisasterAssist), third party payments made must continue to be first deducted from the cost of care before CCS is calculated.

Record keeping

  • Providers must keep records of all payments made by third parties and how they are appropriated to family accounts.
  • It is a business decision on how these records are kept.
  • Providers may consider speaking to their third party software provider about system support for record keeping in the first instance.

Statements of entitlement

  • Providers are required to give a statement of entitlement to families in respect of each CCS fortnight.
  • Providers must ensure that statements of entitlement correctly reflect any third party payments made.
  • Where third party payments are made in respect of a past period (i.e. December 2019) new statements of entitlement must be issued to the family.

For families

Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is paid for days when your child is absent from child care for up to 42 days per financial year. The absences can be taken for any reason, including where a service is closed due to a local emergency and continues to charge you fees, or a local emergency prevents your child from attending care. 

If your child’s annual entitlement of 42 absence days has already been used, additional absence days can be recognised in cases where:

the service was closed as a direct result of a period of local emergency; or

the child cannot attend because of a local emergency (e.g. because they are unable to travel to the service), for up to 28 days afterwards; or

you decide the child should not attend the service for up to seven days immediately after the end of a local emergency; or

the child is ill and has evidence to support this e.g. a doctors certificate.

More information on additional absences is available in the Child Care Provider Handbook.

If your service has been severely damaged or destroyed, you can search for vacancies at other approved child care services in your area on the Child Care Finder website.

Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship)

Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship) is a short-term payment from the Australian Government to help families experiencing significant financial stress with the cost of child care.

This subsidy is available to families who are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy (which can be applied for at the same time) and where an individual is experiencing temporary financial hardship which has caused a substantial reduction in their ability to pay child care fees due to prescribed circumstances that happened in the last 6 months including:

  • the individual, or their partner, has been adversely affected by a major disaster event
  • destruction of, or severe damage to, the individual, or their partner’s, home
  • unexpected loss of employment, other than due to resignation or retirement
  • loss of income or business failure.

For more information visit the Services Australia website or call Centrelink on 180 22 66.

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is one-off financial assistance to eligible Australians adversely affected by a disaster.

For more information on eligibility and how to claim, and information on other kinds of support for people directly affected by an emergency or natural disaster, visit Services Australia's Help in an Emergency webpage or call 180 22 66.

Further support may be available to families affected by the 2019/20 bushfires and volunteer firefighters. Third parties, such as state/territory governments and charitable organisations, are able to help cover the cost of gap fees for families who live in a bushfire-declared local government area (LGAs) and volunteer firefighters who engaged in bushfire fighting activities, without families Child Care Subsidy (CCS) entitlement being affected. Families should talk to their child care provider to see if funding has been made available to them.

Where can I find more information specific to my state or territory?

Need more assistance?

Please email the CCS Helpdesk on ccshelpdesk@dese.gov.au or call 1300 667 276 between 9.00am‑5.00pm AEST, Monday to Friday.