If the provider believes the child will continue to be at risk, it can apply to the Department of Human Services for a determination to continue the subsidy for up to an additional 13 weeks. Third-party evidence is required to support an application for a determination.
Applications for Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) are made through third-party software or the Provider Entry Point.
Applying for an Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) determination (to extend payment beyond an initial six weeks)
If observations suggest that the child will still be at risk beyond the initial six week period, the provider can apply to the Department of Human Services for a determination to continue the subsidy for up to an additional 13 weeks, through third-party software or the Provider Entry Point.
Evidence to support a determination is required to support an application for an Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) determination.
An application for a determination can be made before the certificate expires. To ensure continuity of payments it may be beneficial to apply early.
The Department of Human Services can make a determination for up to 13 weeks at a time, commencing on a Monday and in full weeks only. Once made, a determination covers all providers and services that the child attends, no matter who the individual is that is caring for the child.
Once a determination has been made, no application is needed for further periods - the provider will receive a notification four weeks before each determination expires, which asks whether the child's circumstances have changed or remain the same. The purpose of the notification is to remind the provider that the determination is getting close to expiry and encourage them to review the child's circumstances. If the child continues to be at risk, this provides reasonable notice to advise the Department of Human Services that this is the case and consider what further evidence might be provided.
If the child remains at risk and Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) should be extended, the provider should respond as such. The Department will consider the circumstances, including any evidence provided, and if appropriate make a new determination.
If the provider does not respond to the notification before the existing determination expires, payment of Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) will cease.
For as long as a child remains eligible for Child Care Subsidy, there is no limit on how long Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) can be provided for a child who remains at risk of serious abuse or neglect. However, if a provider considers that a child is no longer at risk, it must notify the Department of Human Services using their third-party software or the Provider Entry Point. The Department will then decide whether to vary or cancel the determination. This decision will be communicated to the provider that applied for the original determination, and to the family.
Evidence should show that the child is at risk of serious abuse or neglect and specify the type of abuse where applicable. Where possible, evidence should indicate how long the child is likely to be at risk. Evidence should not be older than six months.
New evidence does not necessarily need to be provided for each period of Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing). Evidence should not be older than six months, which means, one piece of evidence could cover two determinations of 13 weeks each.
Evidence may include a:
- letter from the state/territory body which was notified during the six-week period
- letter and case plan from a relevant professional (see the next section)
- court order that indicates the child is at risk (this alone is sufficient evidence)
- written statement from a child protection agency that a case of abuse or neglect has been subtantiated (this alone is sufficient evidence).
Generally, the evidence must allow the assessing officer to determine if the child meets the definition of 'at risk of serious abuse or neglect' in the relevant Minister's Rule.
In all other cases, the evidence provided must give a high-level description of the circumstance that resulted in the child being at risk. Evidence provided must:
- focus on the presence of risk of serious abuse or neglect (or evidence of actual abuse or neglect), for example, by referencing indicators of abuse or neglect or risk factors
- describe the child's circumstances in a way that they can be clearly linked to the definition of 'at risk of serious abuse or neglect'
- explain the link between the circumstances of the parent/caregiver and the risk to the child (where applicable)
- highlight how the family's issues are a barrier to the family caring appropriately for the child/children thereby leaving the child/children at risk (where applicable).
Agencies, organisations and professionals considered suitable to provide third-party evidence
Agencies and organisations considered suitable to provide third-party evidence in support of an Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) application are:
- state and territory government prevention, early intervention and support programs and services for vulnerable children and families in place across states and territories
- non-government organisations providing early intervention and family support services
- state and territory government child protection agencies
- other state and territory government and non-government organisations that are providers of relevant services including those related to mental health, family violence and family law, homelessness, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and Indigenous services.
Professionals considered suitable to provide third-party evidence in support of an Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) application include:
- medical practitioners and registered nurses
- hospital admission / emergency unit professionals
- welfare agency personnel and social workers
- psychologists and counsellors
- physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists
- dentists and pharmacists
- school principals and teachers
- police officers.
It is assumed that the families will have known these professionals for sufficient time to allow the professionals to make an assessment that the child is 'at risk'.
This list is not exhaustive and there may be other appropriate professionals who may be able to independently verify the concerns or observations and provide supporting documentation.
What if the provider cannot obtain evidence in time to apply for an extension (determination)?
Sometimes it is difficult to obtain third-party evidence in a timely manner. If a provider has been unable to gather third-party evidence during the initial six weeks to support the application for the first determination, it may submit a statutory declaration outlining its concerns about the child and attempts to obtain third-party support.
Generally, it is expected that four months (six-week period of certification plus first 13-week block) will be sufficient time to obtain suitable third-party evidence.