What Victoria’s new childcare rules mean for you

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After a weekend of confusion with contradictory advice to parents about access to childcare, the new tightened rules have been clarified by the Victorian government.

Children can only attend childcare, kindergarten and early childhood services if at least one parent or guardian is an authorised worker who can’t make alternative supervision arrangements, regardless of whether they are working from home or not.

The rule changes begin on Tuesday.Credit:Peter Braig

This is different to the rules for school-aged children. School children cannot attend if a parent is an authorised worker who is also working from home.

Here is some relevant information from the Victorian government’s website. This story will be updated when new information, particularly concerning childcare fees, is revealed.

Can my child go to childcare or kindergarten?

Childcare, kindergarten and early childhood services are open only for vulnerable children, or the children of authorised workers if they cannot work from home or if no supervision is available at home.

From 11:59pm on Monday, August 23, authorised workers can access childcare, kindergarten and early childhood services (and take a child to a centre) if:

  • at least one parent or guardian is authorised to work and has a valid authorised worker permit, and is working either at home or on-site, and
  • they cannot make alternative supervision arrangements

An authorised worker who is required to work shift-work (eg overnight shift at a hospital) can send a child to childcare or an early childhood service outside their working hours, so they can rest.

Your worker permit or ID issued by your employer must be shown to childcare, kindergarten, and education centres.

To obtain the permit, download the form on the authorised worker permit page. The permit must be valid and certified by an employer.

Parents and carers of vulnerable children can also access childcare, kindergarten and early education centres. A permit is not required for this.

In-home childcare is permitted for children of authorised workers or vulnerable children and a permit is not required for this.

Can a babysitter come to my home?

Yes, you may have a babysitter come to your house, according to the government website.

Victorians are permitted to leave home to provide child-minding assistance (whether it be paid or voluntary).

Babysitters must wear a face mask (unless an exception applies) and should maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres where possible.

Grandparents and elderly relatives are “strongly advised” not to mind children because of the risk to themselves.

I can’t access childcare now. Who will bear the cost?

There’s some uncertainty around whether all centres will waive fees, given the large number of people affected by the ban on non-essential workers.

Unlike the Victorian lockdown of 2020, the federal government has yet to announce any additional support to cover the loss of the gap fee, which can account for up to 60 per cent of a centre’s revenue.

How will parents get any work done?

There is uncertainty for parents about how much work they will be able to get done while staying home with their young children.

Parents’ advocates are imploring businesses to be compassionate towards families, and let workers know that they would not expect high levels of productivity under the current restrictions.

However, Tim Piper, from the Australian Industry Group, said businesses had also been under extreme financial pressure since the pandemic took hold in March last year, and that employees should also “do the right thing” by their employer and take “annual leave, long service leave or even sick leave”.

“Families, not all but often, have got two parents, so there’s a reasonable expectation both parents are going to be supportive of children … and that’s why under all circumstances, there should be a sharing of responsibilities,” Mr Piper said.

“It is reasonable to take [leave] … Some of these businesses are going through very tough times, and it’s up to all of us to put our shoulder to the wheel.”

Can my children go to school for on-site learning?

Schools are only open for vulnerable children, or the children of authorised workers if they are not working from home.

School-aged children of authorised workers cannot attend school if a parent is an authorised worker and is working from home.

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