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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Response Sheet

Aim

As part of our commitment to the health and safety of the children and our educators, we are monitoring the ever-changing Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation closely and following advice from our governing bodies. We are wanting to provide you with information in regard to how we are managing the risk and supporting our families, as well as provide information and advice that may be helpful.

Who Is Affected?

  • child
  • educators
  • staff
  • management
  • families
  • visitors

Policy Implementation

What is the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

  • It is a new viral respiratory illness.
  • It is spread from person-to-person from infected people through coughing or sneezing. It can also spread through contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.
  • The most common symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat and runny nose. People may also develop more severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and shortness of breath.
  • Most people will experience mild symptoms and recover over a few days. Others, especially those with ongoing health issues, may experience severe illness.

For more information about Coronavirus click here.

The Government focus and our role in the containment of the spread of COVID-19

I am sure families have seen the Prime Minister’s comments on why they believe that, on medical evidence and modelling, schools and childcare centres have an important role to play. See the attached link to an ABC article that outlines the advice that the National Cabinet has received from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the key decision-making committee for health emergencies.

In short, the committee made the following statements:

“First, and most importantly, it says children are at very low risk from coronavirus.

Secondly, that closing schools could have a crippling effect on the health sector and the economy more broadly.

Studies have estimated that around 15 per cent of the total workforce and 30 per cent of the healthcare workforce may need to take time off work to care for children, the committee advised.

Government and experts are also worried about childcare responsibilities falling on grandparents who are more likely to be in the groups most vulnerable to coronavirus”.

A very small number of families have approached us this week and have needed to withdraw their child due to an underlying health condition. Where a family supplies a medical letter that states that a child needs to exclude for medical purposes, we are waiving the two weeks’ notice period. By utilising this exclusion notice we will continue to keep your child enrolled to simplify the process once it is deemed medically safe to return.

Mandated closure by the state authority

Whilst we are governed by the NSW Department of Education, the Childcare Subsidy (CCS) is federally funded and governed by the federal legislation. NSW Health or the NSW Education department will be responsible for the order to close for a set period or timeframe, under the Public Health Act 2010.

Under the federal legislation, a Centre that is closed is not offering a service and therefore cannot claim the CCS, so there will be no charges for families under a mandated order to close.

How you can help to protect your family and others at the centre:

  • Practice good hand hygiene at all times, at home, at work and out and about.
  • Sanitise your own and your child’s hands, on entering and exiting the Centre.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
  • Keep your child home if they are displaying cold or flu-like symptoms, we ask that you re-familiarise yourself with our Infectious Disease policy available here.
  • Notify the Manager, by phone, if you or your child have been in direct contact with a person that is confirmed as having COVID-19.

What strategies have we put in place to mitigate potential risks?

Ohana has developed the following strategies:

  • Prompt identification of children with cold and flu-like symptoms. Parents/carers of children that are displaying these symptoms are called and asked to pick their child up immediately.
  • Staff displaying cold and flu symptoms will not be allowed at the service until symptoms have subsided or they have a medical clearance.
  • All excursions have been cancelled or postponed.
  • Enhanced hygiene practices for staff, children and visitors.
  • The amount of hand sanitiser dispensers at our centres have been increased.
  • Ongoing education with the children on the importance of handwashing and correct cough etiquette is occurring in the centre.
  • Any non-essential visitors to the centre are not to enter the premises. All essential visitors or contractors undertake a screening questionnaire before entering. This questionnaire will give managers information regarding risk factors before deciding if it is safe for the person to enter the service.
  • Increased environmental cleaning is being conducted around the Service. This includes toys, equipment, handrails etc.
  • Each staff member is required to disclose any planned and undertaken travel or social gathering to management prior to returning to work, their potential exposure is assessed under a set of protocols developed in conjunction with NSW Health. As of today’s date, we have excluded four staff members from working under these protocols.

What if we have a confirmed case of COVID-19?

If a child that attends one of our centres has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, we will be notified by the NSW Public Health Unit. The local unit will provide information to the centre about the appropriate response.

NSW Health has the power under the State Emergency and Rescue Management 1989 and the Public Health Act 2010 to direct all education facilities to close. If a child or educator at one of our centres is diagnosed with COVID-19 we may choose to voluntarily cease operating whilst NSW Health identifies close contacts of the diagnosed person or if we are identified as being in a localised contagion hotspot by NSW Health we may voluntarily cease operations until the threat of infection subsides.

NOTE: If the Service was to be closed, whether it was a forced closure by NSW Health or we did it voluntarily, families will not be charged fees for the days that we are closed, as we are not offering you a Service. This scenario is very different from the recent bushfire crisis because of the Act that the authorities are using to enforce a closure.

What assistance is available for families?

There is assistance available for families to help get through this difficult time. Every family’s circumstances are different, so it is important that you speak with your Manager about any concerns you have or the difficulties you are facing. They will be able to help you understand what your options are. Some of the mechanisms that are in place are:

Absences from childcare

If the centre is open but your child does not attend, you are still entitled to receive CCS payments that are attributed to your account. Whether a child is ill or not, including where a child does not attend care as part of the family’s own precautionary measure against potential contact with COVID-19, CCS can be paid for up to 42 days absence days per child, per financial year. CCS can be paid for additional absences, beyond the 42 days, if they meet the application criteria for additional support. A recent briefing by the Australian Education Department (federal) alluded to an allowance over and above the 42 days is in being reviewed and likely that this will be granted.

What is disappointing is that as an organisation, under the federal law we do not have the flexibility to not charge the gap for these days. This is something we would be prepared to consider in these times for children of parents that for medical reasons need to be excluded so that their enrolment continues for when the pandemic passes and life returns to normality.

Change of work circumstances

Remember we have a variety of session times available for 6, 8, 9 and 10 hours of care. If your work situation changes and you need to change your childcare times talk to your Centre Manager.

Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS)

ACCS is available for people experiencing temporary financial hardship. It provides short term support to families experiencing a significantly reduced ability to pay their childcare fees, such as if a parent lost income due to being unable to attend work. This hardship payment can be applied for via your MYGOV access with Centrelink. We will today post in our news section of the website ‘How To’ information that may be of assistance in obtaining this support. The ACCS payment will provide 120% of your childcare costs for up to 100 hours per fortnight . The federal briefing this week indicated that the conditions needed to meet the ability to attract the ACCS have been relaxed and the processing is being automated.

Please continue to talk to our Managers, we are in daily communication with them across our entire management team as we continue to develop and respond to this everchanging time.

Policy Source

NSW Health factsheet – COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – Information for families attending early childhood education and care services. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/covid-19-child-family.aspx

Australian Government. Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Coronavirus factsheet. https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/coronavirus_-_information_for_child_care_providers_and_services_v2.pdf

Australian Government. Department of Health. Coronavirus Disease. Information for schools and early childhood centre, students and their parents. https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-schools-and-early-childhood-centres-students-and-parents_0.pdf

Policy Review

Policies are reviewed regularly by management, employees, parents and any interested parties to ensure that they comply with Laws, Regulations and Guidelines.

Change Date
Policy Created March 20, 2020