We are monitoring the corona virus (COVID-19) situation closely and following the daily advice and alerts from the Department of Health and Public Health Units. Our greatest responsibility and priority during this challenging time is to ensure the health and safety of your children and the staff of all our services.
State and national governments are meeting in relation to the early childhood sector this week, and we have been informed that they will be making further announcements on preschool and long day care initiatives. We are closely monitoring these announcements and will pass on all information and support mechanisms as they arise.
1. What Government financial support is available to families to assist them to keep children in childcare?
More information on funding for early childhood will be released on Friday and we are hoping that this will include support for families of preschool children. In the meantime, parents are encouraged to access Centrelink or your myGov account to see if any external assistance is available.
Long Day Care
There is help available for families who want to keep their children enrolled in a Long Day Care Centre, even if they are not attending during the pandemic.
Currently services can only waive the gap fee charged above your CCS payment if services are instructed by authorities to shut down because of COVID-19. The waiver cannot be applied while the service is still open.
For parents and carers who choose to keep their child at home, the government has extended the period of allowable absences to 62 days (up from 42 days) in the financial year 2019-2020. In addition, parents are no longer required to provide a medical certificate to claim additional absences (on top of the 62 days).
The Australian Government is encouraging parents and carers to apply for Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship) if they find themselves unable to pay child care fees due to COVID-19.
ACCS (temporary financial hardship) provides short term support (up to 13 weeks) through a fee subsidy up to 120 per cent of the CCS hourly rate cap. The subsidy will cover up to 100 hours care per fortnight. Applicants for ACCS (temporary financial hardship) need to provide written evidence of their change in circumstances, such as an email from their employer.
2. Should I withdraw my child?
The current expert medical advice is that the child care sector remains open except where individual services have been directed to close by health authorities. Whilst this is a very challenging time for everyone, please know that we are continuing to provide a high-quality education and care experience for your child if you choose to send them to the centre.
We are taking all precautionary measures to ensure a safe and secure environment for all children and staff and monitoring this regularly. Please speak to your centre manager about any questions or concerns you may have.
For families that choose to keep their child at home during this uncertain time, staff are working on methods to maintain the connection and educational program for your child which focuses on supporting the relationships that your children have with their educators and the centre.
It would be best to defer any decision on withdrawing your child until we know the outcome of this week’s government meeting on the child care sector.
3. Why am I still paying fees when the government has asked to stay home?
Early childhood services are essential services that support families both during and after the COVID-19 epidemic. Whilst we are partially funded by either State or Federal Governments the funding only makes up a portion of the income required to remain viable.
At this stage, there have been no further announcements from the government to support the payment of fees, however we hope to have further information on this following the outcome of this week’s government meeting on the child care sector.
4. Will Integricare waiver the 4-week notice period due to Covid-19?
We are looking at all options to support families and those who are facing genuine financial hardship, I would encourage you to approach your centre manager for a confidential discussion to explore your options.
5. Will Integricare be offering the option of reduced fees?
Integricare is currently exploring various options to support families and maintain the viability of the centres.
6. Can my child take one term off and return in term 3?
Current options for term 2 are being discussed and your centre manager will keep you updated.
7. Will preschools be reopening after the holidays?
At this stage, we have no indication that the government will be giving us an instruction to close our centres. We will keep families updated should any new information be received.
8. Will you be open if we are put into lockdown?
Centres will remain open unless directed to close by the government.
In the case where an individual centre is directed to close, that service will not be open, and parents will have the option of enrolling their child in another Integricare centre which is still open. Centres directed to close cannot be reopened until we obtain government approval.
9. Are children still at the centre, should I bring my child to the centre?
Yes, currently all our educational services are open, and we welcome families to access them if they choose. In the meantime, we are putting a strong emphasis on making sure that the centres are being consistently sanitised so that children and staff are protected.
10. Do we still pay fees if they put us into lockdown?
No. If we are closed due to lockdown, parents will not be charged fees for the duration of the closure until we are directed to resume providing access to the centre to the enrolled families.
11. Can I put my enrolment on hold/suspend for a while?
Please speak to your child’s centre manager for best options as these will differ from service to service.
The Australian Government has rolled out a new Coronavirus Australia app on iOS and Android. The app provides information and advice about the coronavirus pandemic, from social distancing measures to the symptoms you should look out for. It is available on Apple and Android with information such as key symptoms, health advice and relevant contacts. You can also get push notifications on urgent information.
The government has also released an information service on WhatsApp where you can message a chatbot to ask questions about COVID-19. To access it, you can either message +61 400 253 787 or go on http://aus.gov.au/whatsapp. From there you can also get the latest news, check your symptoms, and find out what support is available for families and businesses.