Child Care Subsidy is payable for up to 42 absence days for a child in a financial year for sessions of care a child is enrolled in and did not attend, but only for sessions of care where an individual still incurs a genuine fee liability to pay for the care. A reason does not need to be provided for a child’s initial 42 days of absence.
Once 42 absence days have occurred in a financial year, Child Care Subsidy can only be paid for any additional absences where they are taken for a reason set out in Family Assistance Law. These reasons are:
- the child, the individual who cares for the child, the individual’s partner or another person with whom the child lives is ill and the service has been given a medical certificate by a medical practitioner
- the child is attending preschool
- alternative arrangements have been made on a pupil-free day
- the child has not been immunised against an infectious disease, the absence occurs during an immunisation grace period and a medical practitioner has certified that exposure to the infectious disease would pose a health risk to the child
- the absence is because the child is spending time with a person other than the individual who is their usual carer as required by a court order or a parenting plan, and the service has a copy of the relevant court order or parenting plan for the child
- the service is closed as a direct result of a period of local emergency
- the child cannot attend because of a local emergency (for example, because they are unable to travel to the service), during the period of the emergency or up to 28 days afterwards
- the individual who cares for the child has decided the child should not attend the service for up to seven days immediately following the end of a period of local emergency.
In shared care arrangements (where separated parents both claim Child Care Subsidy for the child’s care), the 42 absences are allocated to the child, not to each individual parent.
Child care fee assistance is payable for sessions of care provided to a child for an attendance or an allowable absence and not on the number of places a child care service has available on a day. Therefore, where a child is absent from a session of care that was pre-booked and the provider charges the family and claims an absence on their behalf, the service can offer the absent child’s place to another child.
Some services choose to apply discounted fees when children are absent, particularly when parents provide advance notice or the service is able to fill the absent child’s place. This flexibility is strongly encouraged, and providers should consider this possibility when charging fees for days when children are absent.
If the fees are discounted, it is important to report the discounted fees to the department so that the correct Child Care Subsidy can be calculated based on the actual fee the parent is charged for that session.
If a service is closed for any reason other than a public holiday or a local emergency (as determined by the Department of Education state or territory office), the provider cannot report children as absent from care.
For example, if a service is closed for renovations on the premises or administrative reasons and the provider advises families that care is unavailable on that day, the provider cannot report children as absent and claim Child Care Subsidy for enrolled sessions of care.
Can absences be reported before the child first attends care?
Child Care Subsidy will not be paid for absences where a provider charges a family to reserve a place for a child who has not yet physically started care.
In addition, if a child is booked in to start at a service on a particular date but does not attend on that day, no Child Care Subsidy will be paid until the child physically attends a session of care.
Similarly, a child care service is taken to have permanently ceased providing care for a child on the day the child last physically attends a session of care under an enrolment. This means that absences submitted after a child last physically attends a session of care are not eligible for Child Care Subsidy.
If a family has confirmed their child’s last day at a service, but that child does not attend their last booked session of care, no Child Care Subsidy will be paid for any days after the child’s last physical attendance at the service.
If a provider continues to charge fees for sessions on days after a child has left the service because the family did not give the agreed period of notice, Child Care Subsidy will not be payable for these sessions of care. If absences are reported in the above circumstances and Child Care Subsidy is incorrectly paid, these amounts must be remitted to the Department of Human Services and if not will be recovered from the service.
How should long absences be managed?
If a long absence from care is anticipated, the plan for this, and how it will be managed, can be specified in the Complying Written Arrangement (including, for example, any changes to fees). However, where a child does not attend a service within a period of 14 weeks or more, the enrolment will be ceased. Even where an absence longer than 14 weeks is planned in the Complying Written Arrangement, a new enrolment notice will need to be submitted when care recommences after the absence. If a long absence is planned, the family may prefer to end the enrolment and submit a new notice when physical attendance recommences so that the child is not reported as absent (using up the child's initial 42 days of absence).