Is your service COVIDready?

To remain COVIDready, this webpage is updated and will continue to be updated as quickly as possible with the latest information and references that ECEC services need to continue optimally operating and supporting their children, their families, educators, teachers and support staff.

 

Please note that the most recent changes highlighted below as NEW or AMENDED or DELETED are:

 

  • beginning Friday, 13 May 2022, mandatory vaccinations of education and care workers are no longer required.

By way of quick reference, the current legal and regulatory context that NSW's ECEC services operate within in relation to the COVID pandemic is as follows:

 

  • NSW Public Health (COVID-19 General) Order 2022 (as of 6 pm on 22 April 2022)
    • facemasks are generally no longer required in early childhood education and care settings
    • QR code check-ins are not required (see Clause 10)
    • singing and dancing are allowed (see Clause 13B)

  • NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order 2022 (as of 6 pm on 22 April 2022)
    • persons diagnosed with COVID-19 must self-isolate (see Clause 6)
    • persons diagnosed with COVID-19 must notify employers, household contacts and education providers (see Clause 7)
    • person(s) who reside with the diagnosed person(s) must self-isolate for a period of 7 days only if the household contact has been given a direction in writing by or on behalf of an authorised contract tracer to self-isolate (see Clause 8(2) and Clause 9)
    • employers are now Exempted (as of 21 January 2022) from notifying SafeWork NSW of the COVID-19 diagnosis (see Clause 11) who have also been hospitalised but are still required to notify SafeWork NSW about relevant employees in the circumstances that occurred prior to 21 January 2020
    • NOTE: To return to any NSW-based ECEC service within the 7 day isolation period, the current Exemption (since 5 January 2022 and renewed on 24 January 2022) to the above NSW Public Health Order for self-isolation enables any staff member of a childcare facility to:
      • receive an initial negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or PCR test result;
      • be tested regularly (eg daily) using RATs for the remainder of the 7-day isolation;
      • only attend work if approved by their employer;
      • travel directly to and from their place of residence and their workplace(s); and
      • comply with any other reasonable measures put in place by their employer to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
    • However, if the exempted person receives a positive result on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), s/he must self-isolate until they can produce a negative (RAT) result. Evidence of the RAT must be provided to the ECEC service before being allowed to resume early childhood education and care.
    • [A household contact is not required to self-isolate again if, no more than 14 days after completing the self-isolation period, there is a different diagnosed person within the same household (see Clause 8(3)).
  • NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Vaccination of Education and Care Workers) Order 2022 (expired of 13 May 2022)
    • the NSW Government announced that on Friday, 13 May 2022, mandatory vaccination for all ECEC services' workers and volunteers will no longer be required.
    • education and care workers (including volunteers) (see Clause 6):
    • education and care workers (including volunteers) must also provide the evidence of the above if requested by:
      • a responsible person (at the ECEC service) for the worker or volunteer, or
      • a person authorised by the responsible person (from the ECEC service).

 

Therefore, for ECEC services to be COVIDready, please consider the following:

 

(A) MANAGING COVID-19 CASES WITHIN ECEC SERVICES

 

Based on advice from NSW Health, the NSW Department of Education has provided the following for ECEC services:

 

PLEASE NOTE: ACA NSW's information sheet for families may also be helpful in providing the answers to the following questions - when must a child/staff isolate, when can a child/staff return to the ECEC service, can children be refused entry, can the gap fee be waived, how will Allowable Absences be used, which Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) can be used for children, where can I find RATs?

 

From 12 January 2022, upon a positive Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) result, you must register the positive RAT result within 24 hours of getting the positive result and everytime you get positive results.

 

NSW Health also has general information for people exposed to COVID-19. This webpage includes what to do in High, Moderate and Low Risk of exposures.

 

The Commonwealth's COVID-19 Test and Isolate National Protocols (issued 6 January 2022) may also be useful reference.

 

Within 24 hours of any positive RAT result, NSW-based ECEC serviced must:

 

  • Lodge an I01 - health emergency notification in NQA ITS;
  • Determine infectious period of positive case (48 hours prior to positive COVID test or from the onset of symptoms, whichever is earlier);
  • Determine staff, children and visitors who were in attendance with the case during their infectious period;
  • Send all those in attendance (parents, staff, visitors) the risk of COVID-19 letter and factsheet from NSW Health. NSW Health's testing and isolation recommendations should also be considered by anyone exposed to COVID-19; and
  • Undertake a thorough clean of your service.

And as an employer, for employees who are diagnosed with COVID and were hospitalised prior to 21 January 2022, please do not forget to notify SafeWork NSW within 24 hours of being aware of the COVID-19 diagnose(s).

 

NOTE: The NSW Department of Education provides a dedicated webpage for managing COVID cases.

 

(B) USEFUL CONTACTS WHEN MANAGING COVID CASES

 

The following may be useful to ECEC services:

 

NOTE: Notwithstanding Omicron, it is hoped that the NSW Department of Education will provide the contact details for their after hours and weekend call centre in the near future.

 

(C) BEFORE TEMPORARILY CLOSING YOUR SERVICE

 

When any NSW-based ECEC service is instructed to OR believes they should temporarily close because of COVID case(s), please ensure that:

 

  • it is in writing by e-mail or text message by NSW Health; or
  • the officer's name of the NSW Department of Education is noted (including the date and time) in anticipation of their formal concurrence/acknowledgement of closure upon application via the NQA ITS.

Please note that without either of the above, NSW-based ECEC services may be at risk of not receiving Child Care Subsidies for that duration as their closures may be interpreted as a business/independent decision.

 

IF THERE'S A "DELAY" IN RECEIVING CHILD CARE SUBSIDIES: Members of the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW can contact the ACA NSW team via 1300 556 330 or nsw@childcarealliance.org.au to escalate to the NSW Department of Education or the Federal Department of Education should there be a "delay" in receiving Child Care Subsidies (CCS) despite following the above steps.

 

(D) OTHER TOOLS FOR ECEC SERVICES


The following may be useful to ECEC services facing possible temporary closures due to COVID:

 

  • template spreadsheet of attending children and staff for NSW Government's contact tracing purposes
  • supplementary information sheet from ACA NSW for parents about COVID-19 (eg when must a child/staff isolate, when can a child/staff return to the ECEC service, can children be refused entry, can the gap fee be waived, how will Allowable Absences be used, which Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) can be used for children, where can I find RATs?)

 

(E) CCMS STEPS FOR TEMPORARY CLOSURES, WAIVING GAP FEES FOR SOME/ALL CHILDREN


The following are CCMS advice/instructions that have been provided by the various CCMS software providers:

 

ACA NSW will expand the above as more CCMS software providers provide their information.

 

(F) CONTINUING HEALTH & SAFETY OBLIGATIONS TO PROTECT CHILDREN, EDUCATORS, TEACHERS & STAFF

 

Under the Work Health and Safety Regulation as well as the Education and Care Services National Regulations (NSW) (ie Regulation 88), ECEC services must eliminate risks to health and safety and take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of infectious disease(s).

 

As such, ECEC services are required to assess all risks, including COVID-19, that can exist to other children and their families as well as their educators, teachers and support staff.

 

This could include imposing pick-ups and drop-offs at the perimeter of as well as refusing entry to the ECEC service.

 

(G) EXEMPTION TO SELF-ISOLATION FOR ECEC SERVICES' EDUCATORS, TEACHERS & STAFF

 

Given the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order 2022 beginning 6 pm on Friday, 22 April 2022, self-isolation of ECEC services' educators, teachers and staff are only when they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been directed in writing by or on behalf of an authorised contract tracer to self-isolate (see Clauses 8 and 9(1)).

 

Under the (amended) Exemption (as of 24 January 2022 and 15 March 2022) to the NSW Public Health Order on self-isolation, staff members of and volunteers at an ECEC service who are household contact(s) of a COVID-19 case but has received a negative RAT or PCR test can return to their ECEC service.

 

That staff member can continue to return to the ECEC service only if s/he continues to test daily for COVID-19 using RATs regularly (eg daily) for the remainder of the 7-day isolation period and produces consistent and producing consecutive negative results from the RATs.

 

While using this Exemption, that person must also only travel between his/her residence and the ECEC service.

If that staff member or volunteer produces a positive result from the RAT during the 7-day isolation period, that person must suspend returning to the ECEC service and self-isolate.

 

(H) USE OF LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS DURING SELF-ISOLATION

 

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, if your educator, teacher or support staff is self-isolating due to COVID-19, they can access their Sick and/or Carer's Leave (also known as Personal Leave) entitlements so that they can continue to be paid.

 

And under the Work Health and Safety Regulation as well as the Education and Care Services National Regulations (NSW) (ie Regulation 88), the above also applies if the Approved Provider as their employer directs them to self-isolate following their assessment of risk due to COVID-19 at the ECEC service.

 

In the absence of available Personal Leave entitlements, your educator, teacher or support staff may be eligible for the Commonwealth's Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments (NSW) of $750 per person for every 7 day period.

 

(I) FINANCIAL SUPPORT OPTION(S) FOR SERVICES, EDUCATORS, TEACHERS & SUPPORT STAFF DURING TEMPORARY PARTIAL/FULL SERVICE SHUTDOWNS

 

Regardless of whether affected educators, teachers and support staff have tested positive for COVID or are deemed a close contact, if s/he or they are required to self-isolate, then they are eligible for the Commonwealth's Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments (NSW) of $750 per person for every 7 day period.

 

Please note, these Pandemic Leave Disaster Payments (NSW):

 

  • will be considered as taxable income;
  • will be included in the assessments of Family Tax Benefits, Child Care Subsidies and Child Support Assessment (where relevant); and
  • may be less if receiving other Centrelink payments.

And similar to the previous JobSaver package, the NSW Government announced on 30 January 2022 its "JobSaver 2.0" support payments. Their 2022 Small Business Support Program is available until 29 April 2022 for eligible ECEC services to claim the payments of 20% of payroll for eligible services:

 

  • with an annual turnover of at least $75,000 and a maximum of $50m; and
  • with a turnover decline in January 2022 of at least 40% and/or services with an anticipated decline in turnover in February 2022 of at least 40%.

There will also be rebates for (small) services who need to purchase Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) via an expansion of the NSW Government's Small Business Fees and Charges program. Eligible services will be those having a payroll of under $1.2m, and the maximum available rebates (that can be used for RATs) will be $3,000.

.

 

(J) FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

 

Q1. When can a child or educator/teacher/staff member return to the ECEC service?

A1. When a child/educator/teacher/staff member (including volunteers) have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has been directed in writing by or on behalf of an authorised contact tracer, from 6 pm on Friday, 22 April 2022, such person(s) can return to the ECEC service. That said, ECEC services still have an obligation under NSW Work Health and Safety to eliminate all risks of transmission of infectious diseases wherever practicable.

 

Q2. Can my ECEC service refuse entry to any child or educator/teacher/staff member?

A2. Under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 35 as well as the Education and Care Services National Regulations (ie Regulation 88), your ECEC service must eliminate risks to health and safety and take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of infectious disease(s). As such, ECEC services are required to assess all risks, including COVID-19, that can exist to other children and their families as well as their educators, teachers and support staff.

 

Q3. Can the gap fee be waived if a child is self-isolating due to COVID-19?

A3. Until 30 June 2023 services can waive the gap fee for families and continue to receive CCS if a child is unable to attend care for one of three reasons: the child, or a member of their immediate household, must isolate with COVID-19; the child is at a higher risk of severe disease from COVID-19; or the service, or a room at the service, is closed due to COVID-19. You must not waive the gap fee for families in any other circumstances. If a family chooses to keep their child at home and use absences, they must still pay the gap fee.

 

Q4. Can the gap fee be waived if parent(s)/guardian(s) chooses to self-isolate their child(ren) as a precaution against COVID-19?

A4. Under the existing legislation and rules governing CCS, your ECEC service does not have the discretion to waive the gap fee under these circumstance while expecting to receive CCS.

 

Q5. If the child is not eligible for CCS and enrolled as paying full fees, can the fee be discounted or waived?

A5. In this circumstance, the contractual arrangement of fee payment is between the parent(s) and your ECEC service.

 

Q6. Which Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) can be used for children, including those aged 0-2 years old?

A6. The RATs must firstly be on the Federal Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration approved list. As RATs can differ in their potential effectiveness based on their clinical sensitivity – Acceptable Sensitivity (>80% Positive Percent Agreement (PPA)), High Sensitivity (>90% PPA) and Very High Sensitivity (>95% PPA). As not all RATs are the same, parents/guardians will need to consult their GP or the RAT’s product information (which can be available via the TGA’s approved list) as to whether use by children aged 0-2 years old is permitted.

 

Q7. Can my ECEC service develop its own policy and procedures for children, parents/guardians, educators, teachers, support staff returning and/or entering the service, in addition to what the NSW Department of Education has published?

A7. Under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 35 as well as the Education and Care Services National Regulations (ie Regulation 88), your ECEC service is required to develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures under Regulation 168(2)(c). This can include pick-ups and drop-offs of children at the perimeter of the service, as well as not utilising the Exemption (for Critical Workers) to the NSW Public Health Order on self-isolation to return to the service during the 7-day isolation period despite producing a negative RAT result.

 

Q8. Can my ECEC service allow parents/guardians/visitors to enter inside the ECEC service?

A8. Under the current NSW Public Health (COVID-19 General) Order 2022 (issued 22 April 2022), there are no restrictions on the entry into ECEC services by parents, guardians or visitors. However, under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 35 as well as the Education and Care Services National Regulations (ie Regulation 88), your ECEC service must eliminate risks to health and safety as practicably as possible to prevent all risks to children and personnel (including the spread of infectious disease(s)). As such, ECEC services are required to assess all risks, including COVID-19, that can exist to other children and their families as well as their educators, teachers and support staff. And in doing so, ECEC services can restrict the entry of parents, guardians and visitors to enter.

 

Q9. Is a RAT or PCR test needed to leave the 7-day isolation period?

A9. A negative PCR or Rapid Antigen Test is not needed to leave isolation and return to work after self-isolating for 7 days.

 

Q10. Are there penalties for not complying with NSW Public Health Orders?

A10. According to the published penalties for non-compliances, fines/penalties on an individual is potentially $1,000 but can be as low as $40. For ECEC services as the legal entity, fines/penalties can be up to $55,000 plus another $27,000 for each day of non-compliances.

 

FOR ANY FURTHER INFORMATION/CLARIFICATION

 

ACA NSW members can contact the ACA NSW team via 1300 556 330 or nsw@childcarealliance.org.au.

 

FIRST PUBLISHED: 21 DECEMBER 2021

LAST UPDATED: 24 JUNE 2022

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