On 2 April 2020 the Government announced that from 6 April 2020 until the week ending 28 June 2020, services that remain open and have children enrolled will receive weekly payments to ensure they can deliver early childhood education and care to families. The payments will be approximately 50% of the fees charged in the fortnight preceding 2 March 2020 up to a maximum of the hourly rate cap. Payments for services providing vacation care only will be calculated on the equivalent of the average weekly amount for the vacation period between term 3 and term 4 in 2019 (September-October School Holidays. Larger payments may be available in exceptional circumstances. These payments will be made instead of Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) payments, and services will be able to waive out of pocket fees for enrolled families, even where children are not attending for COVID-19 reasons. This change will apply from 23 March 2020.
In order to receive these payments, the Approved Provider will:
- keep the service open unless it’s closed on public health advice or for other health and safety reasons (payments will continue in this event)
- ensure families are not charged a fee, including gap fee
- prioritise care to essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and previously enrolled children
- continue to record attendance of children
- comply with all other provider obligations including National Quality Framework and other relevant conditions of approval under Family Assistance Law.
What Families need to do to remain enrolled at Erina kindergarten?
Families are encouraged to remain enrolled, or to re-enrol to ensure they maintain their eligibility for CCS, and do not have to wait for CCS claims to be assessed in the future.
Interactions with Children
Where appropriate, educators will speak with children about the coronavirus in ways that do not alarm them or cause unnecessary fear or distress. Educators may, for example, discuss with children their feelings in relation to the virus, remind children that the risk of catching the illness is very low, review hygiene measures they can take to reduce the risk of infection, discuss some of the good things happening in the world, or implement other strategies outlined in our Relationships with Children Policy. Educators will be careful not to speak to others in an alarmist way about the coronavirus if children are present or within hearing.
What else should families do?
Educators will welcome advice from families about any international travel so educators are aware of the reasons why their child may be anxious and implement relevant strategies.
How we will continue to support children at Erina kindergarten
Children in our service will most likely have knowledge of coronavirus (COVID-19) and will have seen and heard conversations and news footage. It is perfectly normal for children to have questions about events that are covered in the media. Children look to the significant adults in their lives for guidance on how to manage their reactions.
We are here help children by remaining calm, maintaining currency with the facts and through providing reassurance that the situation is being handled appropriately.
There is a common misunderstanding that talking with children about a topic such as coronavirus may increase their anxiety. This is not the case. Educators play an important role in listening to children and answering their questions as honestly as possible. You should also act sensitively to correct any misunderstandings. This will help children feel informed and understand what is happening.
We will ensure that children are up to date with the facts from reliable sources as this will help keep conversations calm, considered, and constructive. Provide facts in words that are appropriate to the age of the children.
Children can become distressed when another child is away, believing that they may have contracted the virus. We will explain that others may be absent for a number of reasons, including just wanting to take extra precautions during this time. This can help to reassure children.
It is important to remain vigilant for any signs of children being ostracized or bullied. Children may be particularly vulnerable when returning to the service after an absence.
Some practical advice
During this time, practical measures will be undertaken to minimise risks to children and educators.
For example, we will have displayed posters and other visual aids depicting good hygiene. We will also remind children to:
- Wash their hands frequently with soap and water – before and after eating and after going to the toilet. For younger children we will need to explicitly teach what good handwashing looks like and make time in the day to do this prior to food breaks.
- Cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze (coughing into their elbow is a useful strategy).
- Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth before washing their hand.
These are easy habits for children to adopt, and should help them feel as though they are able to exert some control over their circumstances.
As always, children or staff who are unwell and reasonably suspected to have a communicable disease will continue to be excluded from our service until they are cleared by a doctor to return. Ensure the child is not ostracized when they return.
We will notify the Regulatory Authority and our local Public Health Unit (1300 066 055) if children or staff have been excluded and/or are reasonably suspected to have a communicable disease.
What must employees and families do?
Comply with government guidance
The Approved Provider, employees and volunteers and families must:
- comply with guidance issued by Government agencies, including in relation to attendance, quarantine and self-isolation. This includes:
- ensuring they/a child/a family member comply with isolation requirements and stay home for 14 days where required e.g. arriving in Australia from overseas or close contact with someone who has the virus i.e. face to face for at least 15 minutes or in the same closed space for at least 2 hours
- ensuring they/a child/a family member stays at home if unwell
- seek medical attention if they develop a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of arriving in Australia or last contact with a confirmed case. Call ahead before visiting the doctor/hospital to advise them of your symptoms, and wear a surgical mask when visiting the medical facility
- advise the service if they develop symptoms of the virus or are confirmed to have the virus while in isolation. This is particularly important if they have been at the service before isolation
- provide written clearance from a doctor after a period of isolation or quarantine which required a COVID-19 test confirming they/child/family member are not contagious and may return to the service
- complete a Health Declaration following a period of self-isolation or quarantine declaring they are healthy and do not have any symptoms of coronavirus before re-admittance to service.
Employees, volunteers and families must also comply with any isolation/exclusion periods in relation to coronavirus implemented by the Approved Provider or Nominated Supervisor including periods which exceed government requirements.
Implement effective hygiene process
The coronavirus is most likely to spread from person-to-person through droplets of saliva produced when a person coughs or sneezes. Droplets cannot go through skin and people can only be infected if they touch their mouth, nose or eyes once their skin (i.e. hands) is contaminated. Droplets usually travel no farther than 1 metre through the air. This means the transmission of droplets can occur when people:
- have direct close contact with a person while they are infectious
- have close contact with an infected person who coughs or sneezes
- touch objects or surfaces like door handles or tables contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touch their mouth or face.
The Approved Provider at Erina kindergarten has ensured that all staffs have completed the online COVID-19 Infection Control Training made available by the Federal Department of Health. Certificates of completion will be displayed. Employees and volunteers will ensure they continue to implement hygiene processes outlined in the Health, Hygiene and Safe Food Policy to ensure high standards of hygiene and infection control at all times. This includes ensuring they and where relevant children:
- wash hands frequently with soap and water including before and after eating or handling food, going to the toilet, changing a nappy, handling play dough, using gloves, and after wiping or touching nose and cleaning up spills of body fluids
- wash hands in ways that meet the principles recommended by the World Health Organisation in the following videos wash hands with soap and water and wash hands with alcohol based sanitiser
- cough and sneeze into their inner elbow, or use a tissue to cover their mouth and nose and placing tissues in the bin immediately after use
If using alcohol-based hand sanitiser in place of soap it will contain 60-80% alcohol and antibacterial soap/gel will never be used.
In addition to the above, the Approved Provider and Nominated Supervisor will ensure educators engage in regular handwashing with children and cleaning requirements are documented and completed more frequently than usual. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces like door knobs, bathrooms (e.g. taps, toilets), tables and chairs. Cleaning staff, including contracted cleaning staff, will implement the procedures outlined in the ‘Information for employers’ and Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Principles for COVID-19 Information Sheets including:
- wearing gloves and using alcohol-based hand sanitiser before and after wearing gloves
- wearing surgical masks and eye protection if person with the virus or in isolation has been in the area being cleaned or there are spills of body fluids which could be infected with the virus
- disinfecting surfaces with an anti-viral disinfectant after cleaning with detergent and water.
The Approved Provider and Nominated Supervisor will ensure hand hygiene posters are displayed in areas which can easily be seen by families, including the front entrance, and require all employees and families to use hand sanitiser provided at service entrances.
We’re also implemented the following social distancing strategies where possible to limit the potential spread of the infection:
- putting marks on the floor so families and visitors stand at least 1.5 metres away from the counter and form each other. This is to be implemented upon drop off and pick up times.
- Parents are required to collect and deliver their child/ren from the room gate/ door, not allowing any families to walk into the children’s and educator’s rooms.
- deferring activities that lead to mixing of children from different rooms/groups
- avoiding situations where children are required to queue, assemble in large groups or hold hands
- staggering lunch /snack times to reduce number of children playing outside at one time
- cancelling all excursions and unnecessary visitors
- requiring essential visitors to sign a COVID-19 declaration that they are healthy and do not have any symptoms of the virus
- increasing the use of technology like Skype and Zoom to ensure children can continue to communicate with community members in a protected environment
- maintaining 1.5 metres distance when children are seated eg by removing every second chair from tables and using tape to mark sitting spots
- maintaining 1.5 metres between cots, stretchers, floor cushions etc
- ceasing activities which may have a higher risk of infection including play dough, cooking and dress up activities
- providing children with resources rather than letting children select from communal resources
- serving food to children rather than providing sharing plates
- increasing supervision in bathrooms and only allowing 1 child at tap at a time to wash hands
- opening windows and adjusting air-conditioning for more fresh air
- conducting more learning and activities outside
Information and notification requirements
The Approved Provider or Nominated Supervisor will:
- report instances of (suspected) coronavirus to the local state/territory health department
- comply with notification requirements for serious incidents which include:
- any incident involving serious illness of a child at the service where the child attended, or should have attended, a hospital
- any emergency where emergency services attended i.e. there was an imminent or severe risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of a person at the service
- comply with other notification requirements including:
- notifying the Regulatory Authority within 24 hours if directed to close or closing voluntarily because of coronavirus. Note where possible the Approved Provider or Nominated Supervisor will contact the Authority before making decision to close because of low numbers. (If closing voluntarily, children cannot be reported as absent and CCS will not be paid unless the closure is determined as a local emergency by State/Territory Education Departments)
- notifying the Regulatory Authority within 7 days about any changes to service days or operating hours
- notifying the Regulatory Authority as soon as possible if they’re a Kindergarten receiving funding under the Kindergarten Funding Scheme, an Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) is on unexpected leave and they’ve been unable to immediately replace the ECT (QLD only)
- reporting a break in program delivery to the Regulatory Authority as soon as possible if they’re a long day care service receiving funding under the Kindergarten Funding Scheme, and an Early Childhood Teacher (ECT) is on unexpected leave (for more than 10 days without a replacement)
- apply for waivers from ratio and qualification requirements if required where staff are required to self-isolate
- provide families with current information about the coronavirus including current Information Sheets.
Approved Provider, Erina kindy Pty Ltd