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1 Introduction

About the handbook

The Child Care Provider Handbook (the Handbook) is written for providers of early learning and child care.

It is a guide to the requirements and responsibilities of child care providers and services that are approved under Family Assistance Law.

Providers of early childhood and child care services should check the Types of eligible child care services to determine whether they may be able to apply for approval.

The Handbook includes sections on provider and service approvals, enrolling children, submitting reports, receiving payments and seeking additional subsidies and grants.

Information for families

While the Handbook focuses on the role and responsibilities of providers, it also outlines the way families interact with the child care payments system and provides links to the resources available to guide families. The links to these resources for families are highlighted.

This Handbook will be updated regularly, with the most recent version appearing on the Department of Education and Training website. The version number and date are shown on the Handbook landing page, and in every page within the Handbook website and the printable PDF version.

Take care when referring to printed copies of the Handbook, as they may be out of date.

For easy access to direct links to external online resources, to ensure that you are using the latest version, and to enable you to use the search engine and hyperlinks to find specific information, we recommend that you refer to the website where possible.

Key terms

Provider - an individual, business or organisation that delivers child care services.

Approved provider - a provider that holds approval to operate one or more child care services under the Family Assistance Law.

Service - the child care that is delivered by a provider in a particular site or setting. There are different types of child care services (see Types of eligible child care services). One provider may deliver one or more services, which may include different service types and/or different service sites.

Child - the unique child who receives early learning and care. The child must meet certain requirements for their family to receive Child Care Subsidy (or Additional Child Care Subsidy) (see An individual's eligibility for Child Care Subsidy, including Additional Child Care Subsidy).

Individual - the person who is responsible for the child's care and who (or whose partner) is liable to pay the child care fees (see Who is 'the individual' responsible for the child's care?). The individual is often the child's parent (or the parent's partner) but may be another adult with legal responsibility for the child. The individual must meet certain requirements to receive Child Care Subsidy (or Additional Child Care Subsidy).

Claimant - another term used to describe an individual in relation to their claim for Child Care Subsidy.

Third-party software - software developed and provided by commercial providers to interact with the Australian Government’s Child Care Subsidy System (information technology system), and to support other administrative and management activities for child care providers.

Department of Human Services / Centrelink - where the Handbook refers to interactions between families and the Department of Human Services, it refers to Centrelink, the name under which the Department delivers services to families. Where the Handbook refers to interactions between the Department of Human Services and providers, it refers to the Department of Human Services.

These and other important terms are defined in the Glossary .

Important notice and disclaimer

All approved early childhood and child care providers must be familiar with and comply with the legislation and legislative instruments that form the Family Assistance Law.

Providers must also be familiar with and comply with the Education and Care Services National Law (National Law) and the Education and Care Services National Regulations (National Regulations) (see the National Quality Framework), unless they are exempt (see services exempt from the National Law and Regulations).

Provider's obligations to comply with the Family Assistance Law apply separately from their obligations to comply with the National Law and to meet the requirements of the National Quality Framework. Providers must ensure they are compliant with both. The Commonwealth only administers the Family Assistance Law. State and territory regulators administer the National Law.

This Handbook is provided as guidance only and is not the law. Providers and other users accept any risk involved in relying on this Handbook to their detriment, without having first had regard to the Family Assistance Law. The Family Assistance Law is set out in Commonwealth legislation and legislative instruments which could be amended before this Handbook can be updated. If there is a conflict or discrepancy between the material in this Handbook and the Family Assistance Law, the Family Assistance Law will always prevail. As such, providers and others who use this Handbook should refer to the Family Assistance Law for the laws that apply to child care payments and the approval of child care providers and services. Links are provided to the relevant laws, where possible, at the end of each section of the handbook.

Providers should also be familiar with the conditions of their approvals and any relevant terms and conditions in any contractual funding agreements they have entered into with the Commonwealth. If there is conflict between material contained in this Handbook and conditions of approval or terms in funding agreements, then the conditions and terms prevail.

Comments and suggestions

If you have any suggestions or ideas on how to improve this Handbook, please email childcareproviderhandbook@education.gov.au with the subject line ‘Child Care Provider Handbook suggestions’, explaining your feedback or suggestion and giving your contact details to follow up as needed.