COVID-19: Continuing Confusion over 11 Oct 2021 expiry of Commonwealth hotspots

Following yesterday's ACA NSW COVID Member Alert: When will waivers of gap fees end, members would have received an e-mail broadcast last night from the Federal Department of Education reinforcing the expiry of the Commonwealth hotspots on 11 October 2021.


It did clarify that for those receiving Business Continuity Payments (BCPs) for the fortnight ending 15 October 2021, services can waive gap fees for families who are in non-attendance due to COVID-19.


But the expiry of the Commonwealth hotspots appear to still be set for 11 October 2021, which will affect those services who have not opted in to the BCPs, waiver of gap fees will need to cease from 11 October 2021 onwards.


And it should also be acknowledged that the Federal Department of Education did not say that the Department of Health/Chief Medical Officer may extend the hotspot beyond 11 October 2021, this date being in line with the National Plan when NSW reaches the 70% full vaccinations level.


That said, it was one week ago (on 29 September 2021) that the NSW Government announced school children were to begin returning to school on 18 October 2021 with kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 12 first.


Further confusion has also just been received from the NSW Department of Education (see page 2) also last night that there will still be a number of stay-at-home areas that will remain in place across NSW until 18 October 2021.


The non-alignment of dates is causing operational and financial confusion and is likely to penalise a number of services and parents/families who are more likely to delay their 0-5 year old child/ren back to early childhood education and care services until:


  • 18 October 2021 onwards in alignment with the NSW Government’s decision about kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 12;
  • 25 October 2021 onwards in alignment with the NSW Government’s decision for all other school years (for their older children).


For services who are not receiving BCPs, the negative and substantive scenarios of the above are anticipated to be as follows:


  1. services in NSW-based stay-at-home areas during 11 October 2021 and 18 October 2021 will begin charging gap fees as instructed as they believe the Commonwealth hotspots expire on 11 October 2021;
  2. a number of parents/guardians will now be required to pay the gap fees even though their children are NOT attending;
  3. a number of children will not be able to use the additional absences, and may be forced to use their balance of absence days for 2021/2022;
  4. for those parents/guardians who decide to bring their child/ren back to early childhood education and care during 11-15 October 2021, there may not be adequate staffing and therefore available places due to the minimum 7 days’ notice requirement under Clause 21.7(b)(i) of the Children’s Services Award; and
  5. services will be in breach of Regulation 172(2) which requires services to notify parents/guardians of at least 14 days before making any change that will affect fees charged or the way fees are collected.

The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW has communicated to and is seeking clarification and assistance from the Federal Department of Education with respect of the above. 


ACA NSW will also formally ask for temporary amnesty from breaches of Regulation 172(2) from the NSW Department of Education.


Should you need any further information/clarification, please contact the ACA NSW office on 1300 556 330 or nsw@childcarealliance.org.au.


PUBLISHED: 8 OCTOBER 2021

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