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The enrolment process

What is an enrolment?

Enrolling children is a requirement under Family Assistance Law for all children who attend child care (or have an arrangement for care) regardless of their parent's or guardian's eligibility for Child Care Subsidy.

For eligible individuals and children, entitlement decisions will not occur without the right enrolment in place. An enrolment links the child, the individual claiming the subsidy and the child care service.

Providers must lodge an enrolment notice (through their child care software or the PEP) in the Child Care Subsidy System to show they have made an arrangement with an individual or organisation and a child  is enrolled. Once a provider has lodged an enrolment notice, they must report attendance for that child (see Reporting sessions of care).

Providers may need to provide several enrolment notices for a child if there is more than one arrangement to provide care for that child (because those arrangements are considered different enrolments under Family Assistance Law)—for example, where either:

  • a child is a dependent child of two families, such as when separated parents share care for a child
  • the fees for some sessions of care provided to a child are paid by a third party (such as an employer) and other sessions are paid by the parent(s).
Figure 3: Steps in the enrolment process
Flow diagram showing the enrolment process—families lodging a claim, agreeing a Complying Written Arrangement, submission of enrolment notice and family confirmation.

Step 1—The individual makes a claim for Child Care Subsidy with Centrelink

While making a claim for Child Care Subsidy is a prerequisite for a family to receive Child Care Subsidy and is addressed as the first step in the process, an enrolment can be created before an individual has lodged a Child Care Subsidy claim or while Centrelink is assessing their claim.

Child care providers are not directly involved in claiming Child Care Subsidy. The individual or their partner must make a claim and be determined to be eligible. The family should create or access their Centrelink online account to lodge a Child Care Subsidy claim for each of their children.

Where possible, providers should encourage parents to lodge their claim before enrolling their child. A Child Care Subsidy claim can stay active for a year without any sessions of care being reported for the child.

However, Child Care Subsidy claims can only be backdated for a maximum of 28 days before the claim was made. If a child is enrolled and starts attending care before a claim is made, and the claim is delayed, Child Care Subsidy will not be paid for sessions of care that took place more than 28 days before.

Any back payment of subsidy that is payable for the 28-day period before a claim was made will generally be paid to the individual, not the provider (see Are any payments made to families?). This reflects the expectation that until a family's claim is finalised and the provider knows they are eligible for Child Care Subsidy (and what their entitlement is) the provider will charge the family full fees for care provided.

Centrelink will check and confirm the eligibility of the individual and child for Child Care Subsidy (see Eligibility for Child Care Subsidy).

Families must update Centrelink on any changes to their income, activity and other circumstances. They can do this through their Centrelink online account. Providers do not need to obtain, record or submit this information.

Who is the individual responsible for the child's care?

The individual is the person responsible for a child's care and the person who must pay child care fees. They may be the adult legally responsible for the child's care or their partner.

In many cases, the individual is the child's parent. However, the individual may be another adult who is legally responsible for the day-to-day care, welfare and development of the child. They could be the partner of the child's parent, an adoptive or foster parent, a grandparent or other relative of the child. One or more individuals may be responsible for the child's care and liable to pay the child care fees.

Only individuals are eligible for Child Care Subsidy or Additional Child Care Subsidy. Where another party, such as the state, an employer or another organisation is paying all or part of a child's child care fees, no subsidy can be paid for the fees paid by the other party.

What happens when the individual is the child's grandparent?

In cases where the individual is the child's grandparent (or great grandparent), they may be eligible for and receive Child Care Subsidy or Additional Child Care Subsidy (grandparent).

Child Care Subsidy can support:

  • grandparent principal carers not on income support
  • grandparents who are not principal carers of their grandchildren but have regular or shared care of the child (that is, they care for them between 14 and 64 per cent of the time).

Additional Child Care Subsidy (grandparent) can provide more support where the grandparent (or great- grandparent) is the principal carer of their grandchild, has substantial autonomy for the day-to-day decisions about the child's care, welfare and development, and is on income support. For more information, see Appendix B.

Step 2—The provider and individual agree an arrangement for care of a child

The provider must first enter into an agreement with the individual on the planned arrangements for care of a child.

The agreement through which families can receive Child Care Subsidy is called a Complying Written Arrangement. A Complying Written Arrangement is an agreement to provide care in return for fees. Complying Written Arrangements must have certain information (as set out in Table 5). If the Complying Written Arrangement includes this information in writing, it can be made through the same enrolment form or process the provider uses to enrol a child.

An arrangement must be recorded, either on paper or electronically, and must be kept by the provider. An arrangement can cover more than one child if multiple children in a family will attend the same child care service (each child must have their own enrolment).

What types of arrangement are there?

There are four types of arrangement:

  • Complying Written Arrangement
  • Relevant Arrangement
  • Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing)—provider eligible arrangement
  • arrangement with an organisation (third party).

These are explained further in Table 5.

Table 5: The different types of child care arrangements with details of each and information about whether Child Care Subsidy is payable

Arrangement type

Description

Is Child Care Subsidy payable?

Complying Written Arrangement

A Complying Written Arrangement must include the following information:

  • the names and contact details of the provider and the individual(s)
  • the date the arrangement starts
  • the name and date of birth of the child (or children)
  • if care will be provided on a routine basis and if so
    • details about the days on which sessions of care will usually occur
    • the usual start and end times for these sessions of care
    • whether care will be on a casual or flexible basis (in addition to, or instead of, a routine basis)
  • details of fees charged under the arrangement (providers can reference a fee schedule or information available on their website), which the parties understand may vary from time to time.

Additional information can be included to support the individual's understanding of their payment obligations.

Yes—Child Care Subsidy or Additional Child Care Subsidy

Relevant Arrangement

An arrangement between the provider and individual for the care of a child that does not meet the full requirements for a Complying Written Arrangement.

No Child Care Subsidy can be paid for care provided under this type of agreement.

This type of enrolment notice is used only where a provider is sure that the family does not wish to claim Child Care Subsidy.

No

Arrangement with an organisation (third party)

An arrangement between the individual(s) and another party (for example, an employer, other organisation, or the state— such as for participants in the Adult Migrant English Program) where the other party is liable for the fees for care of the child.

No

For any kind of arrangement, an enrolment notice is required for each child attending the service.

The enrolment notice will reflect the type of arrangement that is in place between the provider and the family/ individual or organisation.

For a Relevant Arrangement, or an arrangement with an organisation, the provider invoices the individual or the organisation for the full fee as agreed in the arrangement, because no subsidy applies. An enrolment notice must be submitted for a Relevant Arrangement.

Do individuals need to sign a Complying Written Arrangement?

There is no requirement for individuals to sign a Complying Written Arrangement. However, they must confirm their agreement to the terms in writing. This can be done either electronically (for example, via email or software system) or in hard copy.

Once a provider enters into a Complying Written Arrangement with an individual, they must submit an enrolment notice within seven days of the end of the week in which the arrangement started.

If a provider enters into a Complying Written Arrangement more than fourteen weeks before the child starts care, the enrolment will cease in the system before the child starts care. Therefore, the provider and individual would need to re-establish the Complying Written Arrangement and the provider would need to submit another enrolment notice. The Complying Written Arrangement would need to contain up-to-date details (where any have changed). At minimum, a new start date for the arrangement would be needed.

A practical alternative is for providers to collect the information required for a Complying Written Arrangement but wait to finalise the arrangement until less than fourteen weeks before the child starts care.

Scenario: Waiting to agree to a Complying Written Arrangement

Evan's mum, Gloria, wants Evan to go to child care as soon as they return from their overseas trip in three months' time. The child care centre's enrolment form includes the Complying Written Arrangement. Gloria completes the enrolment form but does not yet indicate her agreement. A week before returning to Australia, Gloria emails the child care centre indicating her agreement to the terms set out in the Complying Written Arrangement.

Parents can indicate their agreement to a care arrangement by using either a hard copy form or an electronic process established by the provider.

Do fees need to be included in a Complying Written Arrangement?

Child care fees must be part of the arrangement with a family, and fee information must be included in the enrolment notice.

Fees are agreed between the provider and family. The Australian Government does not play any role in fee setting. There are no set minimum or maximum fees that the provider may charge, but there are caps on the amount of subsidy which may be paid by the Australian Government. These are set out in Appendix A.

Where an individual must pay a range of different fees or discounts and surcharges apply at certain times, providers can include a fee schedule to the Complying Written Arrangement (that is updated as needed).

It is important that parents understand and agree to the arrangement they are making, including the fees they will pay and how these could vary. This is good business practice and can help avoid disputes. It will also reduce the chance of the enrolment confirmation process (see Step 4—The individual confirms the enrolment) being delayed due to a parent not understanding details.

Can an arrangement cover both routine and casual care?

A Complying Written Arrangement needs to clearly say how care will be provided. This includes whether the arrangement includes routine sessions (booked days), is casual only or is a mix of both. If there are routine sessions, the arrangement must state the usual days and session times.

If casual care is included in the arrangement, it should set out the terms of care (for example, if fees are different to routine sessions, whether there is a minimum period of care, that it is subject to availability and so on).

Establishing the routine sessions in a Complying Written Arrangement does not remove flexibility for the child to attend on other days (for example, when the parent wants to work an extra shift) or not attend on routine days (for example, where the family is on holidays) as agreed with the provider.

If parents do not know whether, or when, they might use casual sessions of care, by including casual session fees in the Complying Written Arrangement parents can understand and confirm the fees that will be charged if they ever happen to use a casual session.

Scenario: Permanent and casual care

Peter is entering into a Complying Written Arrangement with his son Neal's child care provider. The Complying Written Arrangement includes routine sessions (booked days) for Monday to Wednesday, as Peter works at the office on these days and from home on Thursday and Friday. However, Peter will occasionally need to set either Thursday or Friday aside to visit clients, and the Complying Written Arrangement reflects the need for casual care on occasions.

The Complying Written Arrangement identifies the fees for both routine sessions of care and casual sessions of care.

Step 3—The provider submits an enrolment notice

Once the provider has made an arrangement with an individual, they can create a new enrolment notice through their child care software or the PEP.

The provider must submit an enrolment notice for each child at each service. If an arrangement covers more than one child, or more than one service, a separate enrolment notice must be provided for each child at each service.

Note: the enrolment notice must be in the name of the individual who is eligible for the child care subsidy (i.e. the person who made the claim) in order for payments to be made.

When is an enrolment notice required?

An enrolment notice must be submitted within seven days from:

  • the end of the week in which the provider and family made an arrangement
  • the provider or service being approved (if this occurs after the start of the arrangement or attendance), or
  • the end of a suspension of service (if the Department of Education has suspended the approved service and the enrolment occurred during the suspension).

What information is required for an enrolment notice?

All the information set out in Table 6 is required for an enrolment notice related to a Complying Written Arrangement.

Some of the information will not apply to enrolments related to other types of arrangement—once a type of arrangement is selected, the child care software or PEP will automatically request the information related to that arrangement type.

Through their child care software or the PEP, providers will be able to view, create, update or cease enrolments for all children attending their service(s). Providers will also be able to see the complete enrolment history (all current and ceased enrolment notices) for each child enrolled with them.

Table 6: The information required for an enrolment notice related to a Complying Written Arrangement

Category

Details to be provided

Enrolment circumstances

Whether either:

  • an arrangement for care has been made
  • a certificate or determination has been made for Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing).

Whether the arrangement is any of the following:

  • a Complying Written Arrangement
  • a Relevant Arrangement
  • Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing)—provider eligible
  • an arrangement with an organisation (third party).

Expected pattern of care

Whether this includes any of the following:

  • routine sessions, with possible casual care
  • casual enrolment—no routine sessions are included
  • routine sessions only—casual care is not included.

Dates

  • Date the care arrangement was made.
  • End date for the arrangement (not mandatory—if known at the time the arrangement was created).

Parties to the arrangement

Names of individuals (or organisation) who have made the arrangement—usually the same as the Child Care Subsidy claimant, but it can be someone else (for example, where one parent is the Child Care Subsidy claimant, but the other parent enters into the arrangement with the service to provide care).

If both parents are parties to the arrangement, enter the parent who is also the Child Care Subsidy claimant.

Child receiving care

  • Child's name.
  • Child's Customer Reference Number.
  • Child's date of birth.

Service providing care

  • Service ID.
  • Regular educator (mandatory for Family Day Care).

Child Care Subsidy claimant

  • Individual's name.
  • Individual's Customer Reference Number.
  • Individual's date of birth.

Session details and liability

  • Day of routine sessions.
  • Session start time.
  • Session end time.
  • Routine session—usual fee (hourly fee or session fee); casual session (if applicable)— hourly or session fee.

Under Family Assistance Law, a person may commit an offence and is liable for a civil penalty if the person does not give the Department of Education:

  • an enrolment notice within the required time and containing the required information
  • notice of entering into a Relevant Arrangement within the required time and containing the required information.

Step 4—The individual confirms the enrolment

After the provider submits an enrolment notice for a child, the individual will be notified and asked to check the main enrolment notice details. This will occur through their Centrelink online account. Where an individual cannot access myGov, they can confirm their enrolment over the phone with Centrelink or by visiting a Centrelink office.

The individual must then indicate that either:

  • the enrolment details are correct
  • one or more enrolment details are incorrect (do not reflect their arrangement)
  • the child is not enrolled at the service.

Providers can enter information (detailing the care provided) before the individual reviews the enrolment and responds. Once the enrolment is confirmed, entitlements to Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy will be calculated and child care fee assistance payments can begin.

Providers will be notified through their child care software or the PEP when an enrolment has been confirmed.

What happens if there is a disagreement over an enrolment?

If an individual disagrees with the details of an enrolment at the point of enrolment confirmation, they can send details of the disagreement back through their Centrelink online account and these will be sent on to the provider. After reviewing the details in dispute, the provider can either:

  • agree there was an error and submit an updated enrolment notice with the correct information, or
  • state that the details are correct, meaning the individual has misread or misunderstood the details in dispute.

If the provider maintains that the original details are correct, the provider must contact the individual to resolve the matter before resubmitting the enrolment notice.

In either case, the enrolment will go back to the individual for confirmation.

While a dispute is being resolved, the provider can continue to care for the child and must submit session reports (see Reporting sessions of care), although payments will not be processed by the Australian Government for those sessions. Once the disagreement is resolved and the enrolment is confirmed, child care fee assistance payments will be processed. Provided the individual has claimed and was eligible for Child Care Subsidy during this period, these payments will be made to the provider.

The enrolment confirmation process also allows the individual to state that their child is not enrolled at the service (as opposed to one or more of the enrolment details being incorrect). Providers will receive a notification if this occurs.

If an individual indicates the child is not enrolled, session reports will not be accepted for that enrolment (and payments will not be made). If the provider maintains the child is enrolled and the individual has made a mistake, the provider must contact the individual to explain and resolve the matter and must then submit a new enrolment notice (to be confirmed by the individual).