COVID Member Alert (27 June 2021)

As of last night, Saturday, 26 June 2021 at 6 pm AEST, Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong) went into lockdown for a period of 2 weeks till until 11.59 pm Friday, 9 July 2021.

Please note that the NSW Government's updated Public Health Order applies to all people who have been in the Greater Sydney region (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong) on or after 21 June 2021 need to follow the stay-at-home orders for a period of 14 days even after they have left Greater Sydney. 

 

What does the above mean for NSW's Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services:

 

  1. Notwithstanding this lockdown, ECEC services can continue to be open and operate. And children can continue to attend ECEC services.

  2.  Facemasks are not mandatory for educators while they are providing education and care to children;
  3. Facemasks are not mandatory for children at early childhood education and care services;

Given the degree of infectiousness of the new COVID strain (known as the Delta variant), it is suggested that ECEC services should:

  • consider implementing the drop-offs and pick-ups of children at their service's perimeter;
  • update your service's infectious diseases policy (ie Regulation 168(2)(c));
  • advice your children's parents and guardians of your service's new protocols; and
  • provide your educators, teachers and staff with a letter for their use during travel to and from work advising the police or any other authorities of where their place of employment is.

The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW has assembled the following Q&As (in order of available information/advice) and will update/expand them if required:

 

Q1: Do centres need to apply the per square metre restriction for parents?

A1: Yes but only for those in the Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong), the Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 (see Section 11(1)) limits the number of parents and visitors to 1 person per 4 square metres of space or 25 persons whichever is greater. That said, ECEC services are recommended to conduct a risk management assessment, and then follow your updated Infectious Diseases Policy.

 

Q2: Do parents/guardians/visitors need to wear a mask when entering a centre?

A2: Yes but only for those in the Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong), the Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 (see Section 17(1)(a)) requires all persons to wear a fitted face covering at all times when the person is in an indoor area. 

 

Q3: Can a centre reverse their policy regarding not allowing parent’s entering the service?

A3: Yes. This can and should occur as part of your service's update of its Infectious Diseases Policy, especially given this 2-week lockdown and the Australian Medical Association's advice on the Delta variant.

 

Q4: Can educators still work in services that are outside the Greater Sydney region if they have been in the Greater Sydney region on or after 21 June 2021 or reside in lockdown areas?
A4: In supporting the latest Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021's Section 20(1), it is recommended that staff work from home wherever possible if they reside or have been in the Greater Sydney region on or after 21 June 2021. They will need to follow the stay-at-home orders for a period of 14 days even after they have left Greater Sydney. Services should use their discretion to staff services appropriately according to required ratios, and staff in this category may still attend services to work, if they have no symptoms of COVID-19.

 

Q5: Can educators travel to an education and care service to work if they live in the Greater Sydney region?
A5: Yes - education and care is considered essential work under the latest latest Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021's Schedule 1 Item 2. Services should use their discretion where staff may be able to undertake other duties or where lower levels of staffing are appropriate for anticipated child attendance levels.

 

Q6: Is a deep clean required if my service is instructed by NSW Health to be temporarily shut down?
A6: ACA NSW will be rechecking this. However, the last official advice is no - a deep clean is not required. ACA NSW had published a comprehensive advice, including a flowchart from the NSW Department of Education, contact details of ACA NSW's public relations consultant, and a list of NSW Government's pre-vetted deep cleaning contractors should you still need one.

 

Q7: What should my centre do if a family lives in a hotspot or attends a venue where there was a positive case?

A7: Anyone who under quarantine or is deemed a close contact by NSW Health will not be able to attend your service.

 

Q8: Will the Federal Department of Education grant additional absence days for my service which is in Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong)?

A8: According to the Federal Department of Education's e-mail (dated 26 June 2021), families can get Child Care Subsidies (CCS) when their child is absent from a session of care they would normally attend for up to 42 days per financial year. These absences can be used for any reason. Please note that there are three days remaining of the current financial year (FY2020/2021), and the balance of absence days will be reset as of 1 July 2021 for the new financial year (FY2021/2022). (Please note: In practice, this is calculated on the CCS fortnight cycle, which will make the new fortnight cycle start on 12 July 2021.) And following the Federal Department of Education's broadcasts (28 June 2021 and 7 July 2021),  Greater Sydney has been declared a Local Area Emergency from 26 June to 16 July 2021. This will enable children attending a service within Greater Sydney to have access to additional absences during the Local Area Emergency period if they have used their available allowable absences.

 

Q9: Will the Federal Department of Education waive the gap fee for my service which is in Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong)?

A9: According to the Federal Department of Education (see 26 June 2021 and 7 July 2021) and its specific webpage, services can waive gap fees [only when NSW Health or a local authority (eg the NSW Department of Education)] has directed the service to close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Q10: What does the service have to do if the service is to close?

A10: Services must advise the Federal Department of Education if it will be temporarily closing the service for any reason and for any period. To do this, the service needs to use the Provider Entry Point or its third-party software rather than e-mailing the information to the Federal Department of Education. These notifications are additional to those the service must still give to the NSW Department of Education via ececd@det.nsw.edu.au or 1800 619 113.

 

Q11: What other financial assistance is available from the Federal Government?

A11: The Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances of up to $150,000 is available if your service is at risk of closure due to an unforeseen event or circumstance, for example the COVID pandemic.

 

Q12: What other financial assistance is available from the NSW Government?

A12: At this stage, nothing has been announced. However, it is possible that support for businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions may be announced similar to that provided for the Northern Beaches (eg $3,000 or $5,000 for eligible small businesses who have suffered a decline in turnover of 30% or 50% respectively).

 

Q13: What assistance can families access if they were affected by COVID-19?

A13: Families affected by COVID-19 may be eligible to receive additional support with the cost of early childhood education and care through the Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) (temporary financial hardship). Families must apply directly to Centrelink.

 

PUBLISHED: 27 JUNE 2021

UPDATED: 7 JULY 2021

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