The Australian Government provides financial assistance to families, mainly as subsidies, under the Family Assistance Law. This Handbook outlines this financial assistance as it relates to approved child care providers.
State and territory governments are responsible for the quality and safety of child care services. They administer the National Quality Framework and approve and regulate child care services under the Education and Care Services National Law (National Law) and Regulations.
A regulatory authority in each state and territory has primary responsibility for the approval, monitoring and quality assessment of child care providers and services in its jurisdiction. It performs this role under a national legislative framework known as the National Quality Framework that consists of the National Law and the National Regulations .
The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) - a national body established under the National Law ‒ supports states and territories to deliver best practice regulation and ensure national consistency in improving quality outcomes for children.
Key aspects of the National Quality Framework include:
- specified educator-to-child ratios, so that each child receives the individual time and attention they need
- an approved learning framework to support each child's learning and development
- educator qualification requirements, so educators are better able to lead activities that inspire children and help them learn and develop
- an assessment and ratings system, so parents know the quality of early learning and child care on offer and can make informed choices.
To help providers and services to implement and navigate the National Quality Framework, a range of supporting guides and resources is available on the ACECQA website (www.acecqa.gov.au).
Becoming an approved provider under Family Assistance Law means accepting the legal responsibilities associated with operating a child care service (or services) and passing fee reductions on to eligible parents (or guardians) if child care payments are paid to it by the Commonwealth for those parents' benefit. It is a provider's responsibility to understand and comply with its obligations under the law.
Providers have many obligations, including obligations to:
- comply with the Family Assistance Law
- comply with the National Law and National Regulations, and all applicable Commonwealth and state or territory laws relating to the operation of a child care service, unless exempt (see Services exempt from the National Law and Regulations)
- ensure the provider, any person with management or control of the provider, any person responsible for the day-to-day operation of the service, Family Day Care educators and In Home Care Educators (where applicable) are fit and proper persons to be involved in the administration of Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy (see Providers, managers and educators must be fit and proper persons)
- ensure that background checks are carried out for particular personnel - including criminal history and working with children checks where applicable (see Required background checks)
- notify the Department of Education and Training of changes relating to their service (referred to as 'Notifiable Events in the Family Assistance Law') (see Notifications providers must give about their service(s)).
The Department of Education and Training helps providers to meet their obligations under Family Assistance Law, but ultimately it is the provider's responsibility to be aware of these obligations and comply with them.
Consequences for non-compliance
Where an approved provider fails to comply with one or more obligations, sanctions and/or penalties may be imposed. Possible sanctions include suspension or cancellation of provider or service approval, or conditions placed on the approval. A provider's approval can be immediately suspended in some circumstances.
Failure to comply with some of the provisions can attract civil penalties, result in an infringement notice being issued or, in serious cases, result in criminal prosecution for an offence.
In addition to the actions described above, the Department of Education and Training may publicise information relating to the imposition of a sanction or immediate suspension for non-compliance with obligations under Family Assistance Law. Details of the sanction or immediate suspension, and the provider and service they relate to, may be published, for example, on the Department of Education and Training's website.
For more information about the Department of Education and Training's approach to compliance, see the Child Care Payments Compliance Program web page.