Funding, support and administration

Information on funding and support available for early childhood education and care services during COVID-19, plus information on business arrangements.

Who will cover the costs of shutting services or restricting enrolment?

The Department will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 31 December 2020 based on information provided in the August 2019 Annual Preschool Census. This will support funding continuity and viability for services impacted by COVID -19 such as through reduced enrolments.

For mobile preschools on contracts, funding arrangements remain in place as outlined in your funding agreement through to 30 June 2020. Mobile preschool contracts will then be extended to 31 December 2020 to support funding continuity and viability.

Start Strong funding should be used to meet standard operating costs, such as staffing, rent/lease or other fixed costs. Where possible, Start Strong funding should continue to be used to reduce costs to families as much as possible.

Scheduled April 2020 quarterly payments for Early Childhood Education funded programs will be progressed. This includes Start Strong for community preschools, mobile preschools on contract, Start Strong Pathways, Occasional Care Grants Program, Vacation Care Grants Program, Early Childhood Projects Grants Program and Long Day Care Grants Program (for services that have not transitioned in 2019/20) and High Learning Support Needs (HLSN) funding and Minor Capital Works funding available through the Disability and Inclusion Program.

Commonwealth funded services, including those who receive Child Care Subsidy (CCS) should contact the Australian Government for further advice and information. The Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package is administered by the Australian Government, you can find out more information about it here: https://www.dese.gov.au/news/coronavirus-covid-19

Further assistance is also available to support business continuity for small to medium businesses as part of the stimulus packages announced by the Australian Government.

Community preschools and mobile preschools experiencing severe financial hardship can contact the Department on 1800 619 113 or ecec.funding@det.nsw.edu.au.

Temporary voluntary closures

The current advice is that Early Childhood Education services should continue to operate to support families.

The decision to maintain funding for community preschools under Start Strong and mobile preschools on contracts to the end of the year is designed to support services to continue to operate during adverse circumstances, wherever that is appropriate and possible, and where continued operation is consistent with advice from Government.

Start Strong funding should be used to meet standard operating costs, such as staffing, rent/lease or other fixed costs. Where possible, Start Strong funding should continue to be used to reduce costs to families as much as possible.

To receive funding during any period of temporary closure, there is an expectation that services will continue to provide education support to children and families. This support may be determined by the circumstances of the service and the needs of families and the community. Start Strong funding should continue to be directed to standard operating costs during any period of temporary closure.

In situations of temporary voluntary closure the Department may seek information from funded services to confirm ongoing availability of funding.

Financial accountabilities will remain in place for Start Strong funding. Services will be required to demonstrate how funding has been utilised, including for any period of temporary closure.

We had reduced enrolments during the August 2020 preschool census, will this reduce our funding?

The Department will maintain Start Strong payments for community preschools through to 31 December 2020 based on information provided in the August 2019 Annual Preschool Census, including where there is a decline in enrolments during this period.

The July 2020 (Quarter 1) and October 2020 (Quarter 2) payments will be made irrespective of potential service impacts due to COVID-19. The July and October 2020 payments will be calculated based on the 2019 census enrolment data and paid at 2020 funding rates (including payment of 3 year old non-equity funding).

No negative adjustment will be applied to Start Strong funding for community preschools for the period July to December 2020 (July and October quarterly payments) as part of the annual payment calculations for the 20/21 financial year.

Further consideration will be undertaken later in 2020 regarding the January to June 2021 funding period.

What impact will COVID-19 have on ECE services' abilities to comply with contractual acquittals and holding AGMs to sign off on audit reports etc.?

Compliance with financial acquittal requirements is required for continued funding. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the Department has postponed the June 2020 release of the financial accountabilities to enable providers to focus on providing core services. At this stage the Department plans to release these accountabilities towards the end of the 2020 calendar year. You will receive further communication on this as arrangements are confirmed.

Will there be an extension for Community Grants, Quality Learning Environments and Drought Support Payments?

Funds provided under Community Grants, Quality Learning Environments and Drought Support Payments (paid from October to December 2019) were originally required to be spent by 30 June 2020. This date has been extended to 31 December 2020.

Preschool fees

National Regulation 168(2)(n) requires services to have policies and procedures on payment of fees and provision of a statement of fees charged by the education and care service.

These arrangements are in place between individual services and families.

For additional assistance, please contact Fair Trading NSW or by phone on 13 32 20 (8.30am to 5pm, Mon - Fri).

What additional funding is available for NSW community and mobile preschools to provide financial support for lost fee income due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The NSW Government have announced additional temporary funding support for State funded community and mobile preschools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Start Strong funded community preschools and mobile preschools on contract with the Department of Education will have the opportunity to opt in to the initiative.

Funding will be provided as a top up payment to replace a proportion of fee income that is being lost as a result of decreasing enrolments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support provided under the Australian Government’s JobKeeper program is taken into account before any additional funding support is provided.

Funding will continue to be available to services in Terms 3 and 4.

Information will be collected from services to support payments for Terms 3 and 4, including where their circumstances have changed.

More information:

Why is the COVID-19 Preschool funding program only offered to community and mobile preschools?

NSW is the primary funder of community and mobile preschools.

Children attending preschool programs in long day care services are eligible for Commonwealth funding.

This funding will ensure more children in NSW have access to 600 hours of quality early childhood education in the year before school. Access to quality preschool in the year before school is known to have positive impacts on children’s transition to school and their outcomes later in life.

What funding is available for other service types?

The Commonwealth Government provides a range of funding and supports to services, including Long Day Care, Out of School Hours Care and Family Day Care providers, through the Child Care Subsidy (CCS).

In July, the Commonwealth Government reverted from the early childhood education and care package to a transition package that includes a return to the CCS system and an additional payment of 25% of fee revenue (to the daily cap) from a reference period pre-COVID. Additionally, families impacted by COVID-19 can access additional Child Care Subsidy through the Commonwealth system.

Can I still opt-in to the program?

Yes. There is currently no closing date for eligible Approved Providers to opt-in to receive the funding. Information on the program is available in the Program Guidelines.

What happens if the number of enrolments at my service has changed?

Payments under the COVID-19 Free Preschool Funding Program will account for increases in Term 3 or Term 4 enrolments, using information provided in the 2020 Annual Preschool Census.

Payments for any additional enrolments will be calculated proportionately to the increase in enrolments and will continue to take account of the value of JobKeeper payments.

For example, if a service has an increase in eligible enrolments of 10%, the maximum payment amount under the COVID-19 Free Preschool Program will increase by 10%. The actual value of the top-up amount paid to a service will continue to be determined taking account of the value of their JobKeeper payments.

Any payment for additional enrolments will be made in December 2020 following the validation of 2020 Annual Preschool Census Data.

Will free preschool continue in 2021?

The relief funding is a response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not designed to be an ongoing program. We will continue to monitor the impacts of the pandemic on services and will respond to further developments if and when they arise.

What additional funding is available for NSW Local Government early childhood education services?

The NSW COVID-19 Local Government payment program provided funding for local government early childhood services as they were not eligible for the Australian Government’s JobKeeper program.

Councils who opted into this funding were required to remain open and provide services. An initial payment was made to eligible Local Government providers in June 2020 for the period 6 April to 3 July.

From 20 July 2020 local government run services had access to the same financial relief as all other CCS approved services. Given the equitable treatment of local council services under the new Australian Government arrangements, a final payment was made to local councils for the period 4 to 19 July. From that time NSW ceased its temporary Local Government COVID-19 program. The Local Government Working Group was consulted about this change.

From 20 July, Local Government services were eligible to receive the Commonwealth’s transition payment of 25% of fee revenue (up to daily cap) from the reference period prior to COVID-19. This payment is in addition to regular CCS payments and parent fee revenue.

Australian Government CCS payments resumed from the 13 July and transition payments began on 20 July.

NSW COVID-19 Local Government payments for the period 6 April to 3 July were made to local councils in mid-June 2020. A payment for the period 4 to 19 July 2020 was paid to eligible local councils in July 2020.

Early Childhood Education June 2020 Financial Accountability release

Submission of annual financial accountability reports is a requirement under the NSW Department of Education's Grant Programs Terms and Conditions. Financial accountabilities for Early Childhood Education providers who report on a calendar year basis are ordinarily released in June each year.

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the department has postponed the June release of the financial accountabilities to enable providers to focus on providing core services.

At this stage the department plans to release these accountabilities in November 2020.

For any further enquiries, please contact eceaudit.funding@det.nsw.edu.au.

I am an ECE provider operating on a NSW school site. Do I need to pay fees?

Services should prepare for license fees to resume from the end of Term 3. The department will continue to assess the impact of COVID-19 on services throughout Term 3 to see what support is needed to help services to stay open for families.

How does COVID-19 impact leave entitlements?

Information regarding the impact of Coronavirus on leave entitlements is available here.

If you have questions relating to staffing issues you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for further information.

Does any business insurance cover COVID-19-related temporary closures?

We are not able to provide advice on business insurance. You should contact your insurer or the Insurance Council of Australia for further information.

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