12 March 2021
Fee relief at early learning and care services closed due to COVID-19 cases: good news for families
The Australian Government’s decision to extend fee waivers for early learning and care services that are directed to close temporarily due to COVID-19 is good news for families – and also a reminder that the pandemic is not over yet.
‘We are pleased with Minister Tudge’s extension of the gap fee waiver to 30 June 2021,’ said ELACCA CEO Elizabeth Death.
‘This will ensure that, if early learning and care services are directed to close by a Public Health authoritiy due to a COVID-19 case, parents and carers won’t have to be charged out-of-pocket fees for the closure period.’
Under the legislation governing the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), providers of early learning and care services are required to charge parents and carers an out-of-pocket fee (the ‘gap fee’) in order to receive CCS payments. In 2020, the Government introduced a short-term exemption, so that early learning and care services directed to close by a Public Health authority as a result of COVID-19 cases could choose to waive the gap fee, giving fee relief to parents and carers during a period of temporary closure. That gap fee waiver expired on 31 January 2021.
‘Along with the rest of the Australian community, we are looking forward to putting COVID-19 behind us,’ Ms Death said.
‘But we still have many months of uncertainty ahead of us, and it’s very important that policy settings continue to protect the interests of young children and their families. The gap fee waiver is an essential tool in this effort.’
In its pre-Budget submission, ELACCA is calling on the Australian Government to introduce a new ‘disaster and emergency category’ for CCS funding, which would enable the gap fee waiver to be triggered by threshold events.
‘We know that gap fee waivers are very effective in protecting families from economic hardship and supporting children’s continuity of education and care in emergency situations,’ said Ms Death.
‘For that reason, we want to see the waivers extended to other declared emergency and disaster events – such as bushfires and flood – and we will continue to urge the Government to make this possible.’