Childcare funding relief for families in lockdown

Emergency changes have been made to childcare funding to allow centres to waive gap fees for parents who keep their kids home during the six-week lockdown.

The federal government is introducing the changes to provide fee relief to families and ensure that centres remain viable in areas subject to Stage 3 COVID-19 restrictions.

Earlier on Tuesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the restrictions would be imposed on the entire metropolitan Melbourne area and Mitchell Shire from midnight on Wednesday 8 July.

The federal government is allowing childcare centres located in those areas to waive parent gap fees if children are not attending for COVID-related reasons from Monday 13 July.

The gap fee is the difference between the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) the government pays to a service and the remaining fee owed by the family.

So if a child is absent for COVID-related reasons, the service can waive their gap fee which means parents save money while retaining their child’s place.

Education Minister Dan Teehan says the arrangement provides certainty to families wanting to retain their enrolment.

“Waiving the parents’ gap fees will also ensure childcare services maintain their enrolments and continue to be paid the CCS, even if a child is absent for a COVID-related reason,” he explained.

“Our government wants to ensure that child care services remain open for workers and vulnerable families who need those services.”

The activity test, which determines how much subsidy a family receives, will also be eased until 4 October for families whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19.

These families will receive up to 100 hours per fortnight of subsidised care to help them return to the level of work, study or training they were undertaking before COVID-19.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, the federal government introduced free childcare. As part of the arrangement, childcare operators were paid half their revenue and JobKeeper payments for staff.

Free childcare ends on Monday 13 July when the old subsidy system resumes, with parents again paying fees.

Childcare staff will no longer receive JobKeeper, but services can access a $708 million Transition Payment to support the return to the CCS.

Families experiencing a loss of income, such as casual workers or those in self-isolation, may be eligible for support through financial hardship subsidies.