Emergency and Natural Disaster Assistance

On 17 January 2020, the Minister for Education announced a range of measures to support bushfire-declared communities.  For more information visit Support for bushfire affected communities

Local emergencies and child care support

Unfortunately emergency and natural disaster situations are often experienced across Australia. Child care providers and services may wish to use the following information when one of these situations occurs.

Importantly, each service needs to make a decision that is right for their individual circumstances. For general information on assistance available for families and child care providers when a local emergency or natural disaster occurs, please refer to the Emergencies and natural disaster fact sheet.

For general information on a child care provider’s reporting requirements during a period of local emergency (additional absences), please refer to the Information for child care providers when a period of local emergency occurs fact sheet.

Mental Health support

The Australian Government is committing $8 million through Beyond Blue to provide 25 mental health liaison officers to work with local schools and early childhood education and care services in bushfire-affected communities, to build capacity and support the health of staff, students, and families.

Support will be tailored to help meet local community needs, and may include:

  • Information resources about disaster recovery and positive parenting
  • trauma-informed professional development for educators and other support staff
  • community-based, trauma-informed training sessions for affected parents and carers
  • a Beyond Blue liaison officer to coordinate tailored support and strategies to assist local early childhood education and care and school communities with their recovery needs.

The package will be delivered through the Government’s existing national education initiative to support child and youth mental health, Be You.

Some online mental health and trauma support resources include:

Each State and Territory offer Mental Health services and programs.

Frequently asked questions

Family Assistance Law defines a period of local emergency as:

  • an event which has occurred and affects a widespread area and has a severe impact on the lives of a significant number of inhabitants of an area; and prevents, or may prevent, children from attending the service, or may make such attendance hazardous (for example, where there is major damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure over a large area such as from a bushfire or flood);

or

  • a disaster declaration is made by a state emergency service, the police, or another Commonwealth, state or territory agency and the disaster prevents, or may prevent, children from attending the service, or may make attendance hazardous (for example, declaration of a catastrophic (code red in Victoria) fire danger rating).

Areas directly affected by the December 2019/January 2020 bushfire disasters clearly satisfy this definition of a local emergency. In addition, nearby areas not directly affected by the bushfires, but that experience conditions that make attendance at a child care service hazardous due to those bushfires, such as, for example, due to air pollution (smoke), also satisfy this definition. 

For child care services

Each service needs to make a business decision that is right for their individual circumstances. For general information on assistance available for child care providers when a local emergency or natural disaster occurs, please refer to the Emergencies and natural disaster fact sheet.

Each state and territory has its own rules around when and how communities should protect themselves during a local emergency. Child Care providers are encouraged to contact their state or territory regulatory authority for specific advice and guidance during a period of local emergency about whether the child care service should close.

For general information on reporting requirements during a period of local emergency, service closures or a family’s access to additional absences, please refer to the Information for child care providers when a period of local emergency occurs fact sheet.

Business Continuity Payments

Business continuity payments are a short-term, emergency measure intended to allow a service to continue operating until the provider can resume submitting electronic session reports within the required timeframe of 14 days after the end of the week in which a session of care occurred.

Once the provider is able to provide session reports again, any business continuity payments will be offset against Child Care Subsidy payments. For more information visit the Child Care Provider Handbook.

Community Child Care Fund Special Circumstances Grants

The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances Grant is designed to support continuity of child care, where service viability is affected by an unforeseen factor outside the control of the service such as if a service has been destroyed or damaged by bushfires.

To be eligible to apply for this funding, the provider must be a Child Care Subsidy approved service. If you operate a standalone pre-school or other state/territory government approved service please contact your state or territory regulatory authority.

What activities can be funded under the CCCF Special Circumstances grants?

There are a number of activities that CCCF grant funding can be utilised for including, but not limited to:

  • staff retention costs during periods of closure where the staff are deployed on activities to reopen the service
  • costs related to the provision of care at an alternate venue
  • minor capital repairs that are not covered under insurance
  • project management costs for a staff member that is administering the insurance claim process.

Activities that are covered under a relevant insurance policy cannot be funded under the CCCF.

How does a child care provider apply for the CCCF Special Circumstances grants?

Further information on the CCCF Special Circumstances grant, including eligibility criteria and instructions on how to apply, can be found here. If you have any questions about the CCCF please contact the CCCF Program team via CCCFSpecialCircumstances@education.gov.au or phone 1300 650 848 between 9.00 am – 5.00 pm AEDT.

Support for businesses - Business.gov.au

For other general information on what child care providers or services can do in an emergency, including business and insurance advice and other Australian Government assistance available to you and your employees, visit business.gov.au.

Yes. However, if a service is approached by a family to take a child who usually attends another service for urgent temporary placement, which will exceed the number of places the service is licenced to provide, please discuss the request with your state or territory regulatory authority.

Each state/territory has different information about how employers can support employees undertaking emergency efforts. Please see your local state/territory contacts below.

The Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 requires employers to release employees who are Defence Reservists to undertake Defence service. More information on Reserve Service Protection can be found at Defence Reserves Support.

For preschool and kindergarten services that are not approved child care providers under Family Assistance Law, the best avenue for further information on additional help and support that may be available is through state and territory education departments. Please see your local state/territory contacts below.

For families

Families can be paid Child Care Subsidy (CCS) when their child is absent from sessions of care they would normally attend, (and the family has not already reached their fortnightly entitlement of subsidised hours), for up to 42 days per child, per financial year for any reason, including when a service is closed due to a local emergency. If a child has used their initial 42 absence days, families may be paid CCS for additional absence days if the service was closed as a direct result of a period of local emergency.

If a child has used their initial 42 absence days, families may be paid CCS for additional absence days:

  • if the service was closed as a direct result of a period of local emergency; or
  • the child cannot attend because of a local emergency (e.g. because they are unable to travel to the service), for up to 28 days afterwards; or
  • the individual who cares for the child has decided the child should not attend the service for up to seven days immediately after the end of a local emergency.

For more information, visit the Emergencies and natural disaster fact sheet.

If a family’s service has been severely damaged or destroyed, a family can search for vacancies at other approved child care services in their area on the Child Care Finder website.

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is one-off financial assistance to eligible Australians adversely affected by the bushfires. For more information on eligibility and how to claim, visit the Human Services website or call 180 22 66.

Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship)

Additional Child Care Subsidy (temporary financial hardship) is a short-term payment from the Australian Government to help families experiencing significant financial stress with the cost of child care.

This subsidy is available to families who are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy (which can be applied for at the same time) and where an individual is experiencing temporary financial hardship which has caused a substantial reduction in their ability to pay child care fees due to prescribed circumstances including:

  • the individual, or their partner, has been adversely affected by a major disaster event
  • destruction of, or severe damage to, the individual, or their partner’s, home
  • unexpected loss of employment, other than due to resignation or retirement
  • loss of income or business failure.

For more information visit the Human Services website or call Centrelink on 180 22 66.

Where can I find more information specific to my state or territory?