COVID-19 Latest Updates

Last updated: 1 September 2021

The health, safety and wellbeing of our people – big and small – is always our highest priority. Below you’ll find details of how we’re managing COVID-19 in our Centres, and supporting our families and team members through this period of change and uncertainty.

We’re open and ready to support you

We understand that COVID-19 has created a number of challenges – financially, emotionally and when it comes to our individual and collective health. It’s our job to reassure you that our Centres are set up to provide a safe, nurturing and consistent environment for your children, which has never been more important.

We know some families may require assistance in understanding the options available to them. With the latest information, we’re here to answer those questions to reassure you and your children, every step of the way.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your Centre Manager, contact our team on 1300 001 119 or use our dedicated COVID-19 email: [email protected].

Update for our ACT Families, 1st September 2021

As we hoped, the Federal Government announced extra funding for the early learning sector so I am pleased to confirm that we will continue to waive 100% of your gap fees until at least the Friday September 17 lockdown period end date. This waiving of gap fees will extend to all families, those who qualify for CCS and those who do not. For non-CCS families the waiving will be backdated until August 23 when the Federal Government funding commenced. You may still see some charges on your account because of timing differences but don’t be alarmed, these will be corrected in future statements.

Waiving of Gap Fees means, you don’t need to cancel care or reduce days. If your child doesn’t attend, you will not be charged anything. Keeping your bookings in place ensures we can support our team members financially. If you have reduced your days in the last few weeks, please speak to your centre and reinstate them. While all our centres will remain open, the Government strongly encourages families to keep their children at home unless they need to be in a Centre should their family be Essential Workers, or if they have a vulnerability.

This is an incredibly difficult balance, but if you do not absolutely need to attend care for all of your booked days, we would appreciate you keeping your children at home so we can reduce the number of educators required to be in the centre. Please be assured that our team of educators are still being paid fully, whether they are in the centres or not.

We thank you for your support and cooperation during these times.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Update for our VIC Families, 24th August 2021

Following the announcement of extra funding for the early learning sector, we are pleased to announce that we will be waiving 100% of families’ gap fees backdating to Monday, August 23. This waiving of gap fees will extend to all families, those who qualify for CCS and those who do not. The government have attached the support to lockdowns, so we will keep you informed whether waivers will continue once the Victorian Government decides on the current lockdown. This will allow you to keep your children enrolled and not pay anything when you don’t attend.  You may still see some charges on your account because of timing differences but don’t be alarmed, this will be credited back to your account in the next fee statement if you do not attend.

Waiving of gap fees means you don’t need to cancel care or reduce days.  If your child doesn’t attend, you will not be charged anything. Keeping your bookings in place ensures we can support our team members financially.  If you have reduced your days in the last few weeks, please speak to your centre and reinstate them. Remember, there is no cost to you if you do not attend care.

Please remember that if you do take absence days then they do not come off your 42 days per year annual limit.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Update for our VIC Families, 23rd August 2021

Following the advice of the Victorian Government, our centres will remain open to children whose parent’s are authorised workers and do not have appropriate or alternative care available at home. Parents/Carers must demonstrate their eligibility by producing a valid Authorised Worker Permit upon visiting the centre. Additionally, all face-to-face tours have been cancelled up until September, 1. However, virtual tours are still available for families pending availability. For more information and to apply for the permit, please visit here.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Update for our ACT Families, 19th August 2021

We will be waiving 100% of the gap fees for absences for CCS entitled families, backdated from Monday, August 16 until Thursday, September 2 . Unfortunately, we are not able to guarantee full fee waivers will continue beyond this date because, unlike the Victorian lockdown of 2020, the government is not providing the Childcare sector additional support to cover the loss of the gap fee (which can be up to 60% of our revenue). The waiving of the gap fee is being entirely funded by each childcare centre.

This decision has placed us in the extremely difficult situation of potentially having to choose between charging gap fees again or cutting educators from our team. We are committed to keeping our centres open and keeping the educators you and your children love employed, but doing this while not receiving enough revenue to pay for these things, cannot continue indefinitely.

If the lockdown is extended then we will be hoping that the government changes its policy. We will be reviewing the situation on a weekly basis, continuing to push for more support, and will let you know if circumstances change.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected].

Update for our NSW Families, 19th August 2021

On the 15 July, we advised all Sydney families that gap fees would be fully waived if you do not attend care. This waiver is in place for 6 weeks until the current lockdown end date of August 28. Unfortunately, we are not able to guarantee full fee waivers will continue beyond this date because, unlike the Victorian lockdown of 2020, the government is not providing the Childcare sector additional support to cover the loss of the gap fee (which can be up to 60% of our revenue). The waiving of the gap fee is being entirely funded by each childcare centre.

This decision has placed us in the extremely difficult situation of potentially having to choose between charging gap fees again or cutting educators from our team. We are committed to keeping our centres open and keeping the educators you and your children love employed, but doing this while not receiving enough revenue to pay for these things, cannot continue indefinitely.

If the lockdown is extended then we will be hoping that the government changes its policy. We will be reviewing the situation on a weekly basis, continuing to push for more support, and will let you know if circumstances change.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected].

What we’re doing in Centres

Guardian responds to emerging trends as advised by state-based department of health. Strategies to minimise risk and keep families, children and staff healthy are followed. Families will be notified of any changes that come into affect at centres via email and the service’s internal communication platform.

Some as these additional health and hygiene strategies we have implemented in relation to COVID and health departments include:

  • Drop off & pick up procedures: Centres have developed zones for arrival and departure. This may include staggered drop off and pick up times where possible and including information collection processes.
  • Updated visitor protocol: From time to time we have limited the number of visitors attending our Centre to minimise the risk of COVID-related illness.
  • Additional hygiene measures: Including professional cleaning 5 times per week; implementing ‘High Touch Hygiene checklists’; removal of excessive soft furnishings; hot washing and drying cycles; ensuring good ventilation and air circulation; hygiene stations at multiple points throughout Centres; handwashing procedure posters with visual displays for children.
  • Return to care procedures for children and families who have been absent: Centres have a range of strategies these use to ensure they stay up to date with families, staff and visitors returning to the Centre after absence. State-based exclusion requirements are enforced.
  • Mask wearing in-centre: Team members in-Centres are following their states recommendations on mask wearing when necessary.
  • QR code check in: All NSW and VIC visitors will be required to check in via a QR code on entering a Centre
  • Compulsory testing: All team members residing in NSW Local Government Areas of concern will continue to be tested every three days to ensure the safety of our Centres.

Read our full COVID FAQs (below) for more information on the procedures we have in place to minimise COVID cross infection and keep our Centres safe.

For further information on COVID-19

Visit the Federal Government Department of Health, or call or visit your relevant state-based health authority:

 

COVID-19 FAQs

Are Centres still open to Families, and do I need a permit to attend? 

Our Centres will remain open to families who require care. Normal operating hours apply during this time.   

NSW Centres remain open to families who require care; however, we continue to support the stay at home direction provided by the NSW Government.  

VIC Centres also remain open to families who require care; however families must have an Authorised Worker Permit as an essential worker for their child to attend a Centre. For more information and to apply for the permit, please visit here.  

There are no requirements for permits for our families in QLD, SA, NSW and ACT, should there be any developments or changes to this matter, we will let you know. 
 

What can I do to help ensure my Childcare Centre meets COVID regulations and social distancing practices?

Staying open to support you and your families is our priority, so we urge everyone to continue to be vigilant and practice COVID-safe measures at all times. This includes: 

  • Speak to your Centre Manager about any COVID safe practices in place. 
  • Stay up to date with messaging from the Centre around any state-based Covid communications 
  • Ensure you are following the government recommendations and advice on mask-wearing.  
  • Continuing to follow our Drop Off and Pick Up procedures to minimise the amount of people in our Centres  
  • Signing in via a QR code at the entrance of the Centre should you be entering, if required 
  • Maintain social distancing if you come into a Centre 
  • Practicing key hygiene practices such as handwashing and the use of hand sanitiser 
  • If you, your child, or a family member develops symptoms of a fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of smell or taste, you should get tested at a coronavirus (COVID-19) testing facility and stay home 
  • Contacting us immediately if you or a member of your household has tested positive to Covid, is classified a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case and/or is awaiting a Covid test result. 

How are your Centres managing the risk of infection as more children and families return to care?

Our Centres are continuing to operate with rigorous health, hygiene and infection control measures. We appreciate your ongoing support in following these practices, including: 

  • Responding to signs of illness, no matter how mild and excluding until well 
  • Continuing to follow our Drop Off and Pick Up procedures to minimise the amount of people in our Centres 
  • Following state-based recommendations and advice on mask wearing 
  • Reinforcing key hygiene practices such as handwashing and the use of hand sanitiser 
  • If you, your child, or a family member develops symptoms of a fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of smell or taste, you should get tested at a coronavirus (COVID-19) testing facility and stay home 
  • Contacting us immediately if you or a member of your household has tested positive to COVID-19, is classified a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case and/or is awaiting a COVID-19 test result. 

I’m interested in touring a Guardian Centre, am I able to do so?

Our centres are still open to tours with families needing care in NSW, ACT, QLD and SA. For our families in VIC, all face-to-face tours have been canceled up until September, 1.  

Rest assured our commitment to stringent health, safety and hygiene practices will remain in place in every Centre. 

Tours provide prospective families with the perfect opportunity to explore our Centres, meet our teams and discover the Guardian difference. We have limited spots available, but you can book a tour through our website. 

Can my child attend the Centre if they have a runny nose or other mild symptoms?

For the safety and wellbeing of all children and team members in our Centres, if a child is displaying any COVID-19 symptoms at all they cannot attend the Centre and will ask parents to collect any child starting to show symptoms. 

The symptoms to watch out for are: 

  • Fever 
  • Chills or sweats 
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Runny nose 
  • Loss of sense of smell 
  • In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be considered. 

There has been an example of a child who had these systems and a negative COVID-19 test. They then tested positive a couple of days later. For examples like this, it is in the safety of all parties that we will not accept a child with symptoms, regardless of a negative COVID-19 test. We appreciate your understanding.  

My Centre is open, but my child will be absent for COVID-19 related reasons, who do I need to tell?

My child attends a Guardian Centre in VIC. Do I need a permit for them to attend? 

Following the advice of the Victorian Government, our centres will remain open to children whoseparent’s are authorised workers and do not have appropriate or alternative care available at home. Parents/Carers must demonstrate their eligibility by producing a valid Authorised Worker Permit upon visiting the Centre. For more information and to apply for the permit, please visit here. 

Children who are experiencing vulnerability are permitted to attend the Centre and do not require a permit in this case. 

Am I eligible for the waiving of gap fees? 

Our ACT and VIC Centres are currently waiving their gap fees.  

The NSW Federal Government has said that they will provide additional support by supporting childcare centres to waive gap-fees for families if you choose to keep your children at home, from Monday, 19 July 2021. This will allow you to keep your children enrolled in our Centre, but if you do not use the service during lockdown, you will not have an out-of-pocket expense for gap fees. The gap fee is the difference between the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and our daily fee. This will be credited back to your account in the next fee statement if you do not attend. 

For our ACT families, the waiver is currently in place until 17 September, backdating from 16 August. This waiving of gap fees is for our CCS eligible families and non-eligible CCS families. For non-CCS families, the waiving will be backdated until August 23 when the Federal Government funding commenced. We will be reviewing the situation on a weekly basis, continuing to push for more support, and will let you know if circumstances change.  

For our VIC families, the waiver is currently in place until 2 September, backdating to Monday, 23 August. The waiving of gap fees will extend to families who qualify for CCS as well as those who do not.  

What does it mean if my gap fees are being waived and should I cancel my care if I'm legible?

Waiving of gap fees means you don’t need to cancel care or reduce days. If your child doesn’t attend, you will not be charged anything. Keeping your bookings in place ensures we can support our team members financially. If you have reduced your days in the last few weeks, please speak to your Centre and reinstate them. Remember, there is no cost to you if you do not attend care. 

Please remember that if you do take absence days, then they do not come off your 42 days per year annual limit. 

Should I enter a Centre, do I have to sign in with a QR code?

In our NSW & VIC centres, should you be required to enter a Centre, you will need to sign in via a QR code as part of the NSW & VIC Department of Health & Safety regulations.  

This QR sign-in process is a new requirement from the Government to help their contact tracking process needs, ensuring our Centre teams, families, and children remain safe. 

My centre is closed due to a public health notice, will I be charged fees?

No, your account will be credited for the days that the centre is closed. Credits are applied Thursday mornings, for Friday of the previous week and Monday- Thursday of the current week.

Will Covid-19 related absences count towards my annual balance?

Am I eligible for additional Allowable Absences?

Families can access additional Allowable Absences during stay-at-home orders extending for more than 7 days. This means any Absent days taken during these stay-at home orders will not impact your overall 42 Allowable Absence Days, and you will continue to be subsidised. Additional allowable absences will be available until the end of hotspot declarations for states. 

Am I eligible for Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS)?   

ACCS (temporary financial hardship) is available to families who are:  

  • eligible for Child Care Subsidy (CCS) (they can apply for both at the same time), and  
  • are experiencing temporary financial hardship due to an event in the last six months, and  
  • have a substantially reduced ability to pay childcare fees.  

For more information on this and how-to instructions on how to apply for it, please click here.  

What happens when a Centre is informed of a case of COVID-19?

As soon as a centre becomes aware of a diagnosed case of COVID-19, all families are notified as a matter of urgency. This communication is carried out via SMS, email and via the StoryPark app to all impacted families.

Once a case is reported we follow procedures as set out by the relevant state government department, which may include closing the centre for a period of time in order for required health and safety procedures to take place. We cannot predict ahead of time whether a centre will need to be closed, nor the duration of any possible closure.

Is it still safe to send my child to childcare?

Yes. While centres remain open, it is safe to send your child. If that situation changes due to a reported case of COVID-19 in your centre, you will be advised immediately via SMS, email and StoryPark.

Rest assured every Guardian centre is taking all of the proper measures and precautions to ensure the safety of children, families and staff at this time. This includes following extended and extensive hygiene practices, highly controlled drop-off and pick up procedures, as well as dedicated and constant communication with our staff in centres to ensure they have the most up-to-date information to keep children safe and families informed. For more information, visit our Health, Safety and Wellbeing page.

My child has been tested for COVID-19 but does not have any symptoms. Can they attend? 

Following recommendations from the Department of Health, anybody that has been tested is required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result, in addition to any other instructions that have been advised to you. For the safety of your child and the community, your child will not be able to attend until they have been fulfilled. 

What happens if I have visited an exposure site?

Following government recommendations, advise your Centre Manager immediately, get tested and self- isolate for 14 days. 

Are you taking each child's temperature on arrival at the Centre?  

As of 17/11/20, temperature checks are no longer mandatory. However, your childs temperature may be checked if educators are concerned that they are unwell. You will be contacted if your childs temperature is elevated or if they are displaying other symptoms of being unwell and will be required to collect them from the service. 

What is the risk of parents or educators contracting the virus while in the Centre?

Because of the extensive health, safety, hygiene and infection control measures we have put in place in our centres, we have been able to lower the risk of infection as much as possible. However, we need to continue to take the appropriate measures and precautions to ensure this remains the case. In some cases, this may mean closing centres in line with the relevant state government recommendations, to ensure the safety of children, families and staff members.

People need to be considered a close contact of an infected person to be considered at risk. A close contact is typically someone who has been face-to-face for at least 15 minutes, or has shared the same closed space for at least 2 hours, with a person that was infectious.  We have also been informed that the infected person needs to have been displaying symptoms when visiting the centre or have visited the centre within the 24 hours prior to displaying symptoms for the risk to escalate.

What is the likelihood of a Centre closing?

It is impossible to predict with any certainty what may happen, however we are prepared for the need to close some centres for a period of time. Decisions are based on advice from the Department of Health ealth and other government authorities.

If a centre closes, we may seek to accommodate children at a nearby Guardian centre if possible places are avaiable and if allowed under Department of Health requirements and regulations that relate to containing the spread of the virus. Hence, this may not be possible in all cases. For those families where both parents work, or where care at home may be difficult, we encourage you to discuss contingencies with your employers in the event that your centre is required to close.

We understand the closure of a centre will cause disruption, uncertainly and inconvenience for our families. However, in these uncertain and unprecedented times, we must place priority on the safety of our children, families and employees. We will do our absolute best to support and accommodate your needs at this time, however we must also abide by government rules and regulations.

Please speak to your centre manager about your individual circumstances and how to best plan for a potential closure.

What happens if an educator displays symptoms of Covid whilst at the centre?

If an educator displays symptoms consistent with Covid-19 it is important to remember that it could be this virus or several other illnesses. However any educator who exhibits these symptoms whilst at the centre are sent home and is required to seek medical attention and testing.

What strategies are Guardian currently putting in place to manage Coronavirus in Centres?

Our approach is to manage the situation in a balanced, calm and measured way, and when required act swiftly and communicate clearly.

Our Coronavirus Task Group is actively communicating with a wide range of government authorities in order to ensure we are adopting the constantly evolving advice they are providing, to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of all our people, little and big. We are regularly communicating with families via email and have established a dedicated email address for families to send questions to –  [email protected] .  This email is constantly monitored by the Task Group.

We also continue to emphasise to our centre teams the importance of continuing to implement practices that support the highest standard of hygiene in our centres. We are supporting Centres by providing ongoing updates, new tools and modified policies and procedures. This information is being communicated frequently to all team members via our internal communication channels.

Additionally, we encourage our families to view the Federal Government Department of Health or your relevant state-based Department of Health website to keep informed of the latest advice.

What about visitors to the centre? What is being done to manage unnecessary exposure to COVID?

Visitors are required to declare whether they are feeling unwell, if they have been to a declared hot spot area or are awaiting COVID test results. If any visitors declare any of the above, they will be excluded until well and cleared to attend.

My child has been out of childcare for a period of time. Is there a return to care procedure I have to follow?

All educators, families and visitors entering our centres must complete a Personal Declaration Form upon their return to the centre. Your Centre Manager will provide you with this. This form is designed to capture key information about any COVID-related risk factors, such as recent illnesses, travel or exposure to anyone who has displayed symptoms. In addition, daily temperature checks were implemented. We are committed to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and any other illnesses through this measure.

We cannot eliminate all risk and will rely on expert advice. In the absence of a full scale lock-down by the government, it is important that we do not panic – people still need to go about their business, albeit applying the evidence-informed advice from experts that is being provided.

What are some example of the additional hygiene measures you are taking to help manage COVID-19?

Effective hygiene practices, providing knowledge and having clear systems to manage symptoms are the best ways to minimise the spread COVID. It is essential that centres provide an environment that is healthy, hygienic and that minimises the risk of infection through proper hygiene practices that are understood, documented and implemented consistently. Therefore, Educators, staff, Centre Managers and management are being kept up to date on an ongoing basis through multiple communication channels regarding additional hygiene measures during this time, which include:

  • Professional cleaning occurs 5 times per week. Feedback is communicated to cleaners to ensure that cleaning is adequate and to highlight areas that require attention.
  • Excessive amounts of soft furnishings have been removed to minimise health and hygiene risks.
  • There are documented systems to clean resources, materials and equipment, including bottles, dummies and water bottles which are cleaned thoroughly daily or more often when required.
  • Ensuring spaces are well-ventilated with fresh air circulating as much as possible.
  • The introduction of hygiene stations throughout Centres – inside and out, in the foyer, staff room, kitchen and high traffic areas. Hygiene stations should include gloves, hand sanitiser, tissues, anti-bacterial wipes and access to a lidded bin.
  • Handwashing Procedure posters in place at all handwashing stations. Visual displays are also in place for children. Handwashing stations are restocked regularly as paper towel is preferred over hand dryers at this time.

Will I be notified if there are diagnosed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) at my centre?

Yes. As soon as a centre becomes aware of a diagnosed case of COVID-19, all families are notified as a matter of urgency. This communication is carried out via SMS, email and via the StoryPark app to all impacted families.

I have further questions, where can I go for answers?

We have also set up a dedicated email to respond to all family queries [email protected].

You should also regularly refer to the Federal Government Department of Health Website at www.health.gov.au or your relevant state government health department website.