New Child Care Package – Frequently asked questions

Is there an activity test?

Yes, there is a three step activity test. The activity test is determined at the family level. In a two parent family, both parents must meet the activity test and the person with the lower number of hours will determine the relevant step of the activity test. In a sole parent family, the sole parent must meet the activity test.

What is an activity?

There are a range of activities that meet the activity test: paid work (including leave), study and training, unpaid work in a family business, looking for work, volunteering, self-employment, and other activities on a case by case basis. You can also include reasonable travel time to and from your place of activity to your child care centre.

How do I prove how many hours I work, study or volunteer?

Parents self-declare their activity to the Department of Human Services (DHS) and no evidence is required at the time you self-declare. This is generally done just prior to a new financial year, when you provide your income estimate for the coming financial year. DHS might ask some parents to provide evidence as part of their normal random spot checks. Evidence could include, for example, a copy of a payslip or a letter from the organisation where you volunteer. Parents can change or update their activity test details whenever they need to. This is done via your myGov account online or on your smartphone app.

What if I work irregular work hours?

If your paid work hours vary unpredictably from fortnight to fortnight, you should estimate the highest number of hours you expect to work in a fortnight over the next three months. This estimate determines how many hours of subsidised care you will be entitled to per fortnight. This will support your family to secure a regular child care place. You will have access to enough hours of subsidised child care to support you to work as much as you need too. Including having the flexibility to accept additional shifts at short notice (where you can also secure a child care place).

It's important to note that this approach can only be used to report irregular hours of paid work, and not when reporting hours of the other recognised activities.

Please notify Centrelink of any changes to your level of activity, estimated over three months, that would cause you to move to another step of the activity test. You can do this through your Centrelink online account via myGov. There is no limit to the number of times you update your circumstances.

You may update your family income estimate at any time during the year, and your Child Care Subsidy percentage will be adjusted accordingly. If an updated estimate to the family income occurs after the change, the Child Care Subsidy percentage will be applied following the advice. However, the previous entitlement will not be reviewed until Centrelink balances their payments once the actual income is known.

Example:

Suzie works at a supermarket with her shifts varying unpredictably from fortnight to fortnight. She estimates that her hours of work per fortnight, over a three month period, can vary from 15 hours per fortnight to a maximum of 45 hours per fortnight.

Suzie is able to provide an estimate based on her maximum of 45 hours per fortnight which is used to determine how many hours of subsidised care she is entitled to while she continues to work on the same basis. Based on the estimate of 45 hours per fortnight, Suzie is entitled to 72 hours of subsidised child care per fortnight (step 2 of the activity test).

Suzie has begun to work additional shifts at the supermarket on weekends. While her hours still vary unpredictably from fortnight to fortnight, Suzie estimates she is now working up to 60 hours in her busiest fortnight, based on a three month period. Suzie updates her circumstances with Centrelink, changing her fortnightly estimate from 45 hours to 60 hours per fortnight. The estimate of 60 hours per fortnight means that Suzie is now entitled to 100 hours of subsidised child care per fortnight (step 3 of the activity test).

Is looking for work considered an activity?

Actively looking for work is a recognised activity. If it's the only activity you do, you meet the first step of the activity test (36 hours of subsidised child care per child, per fortnight). You can combine actively looking for work with another recognised activity such as an approved study course to receive further hours of subsidised child care.

How do I calculate my study hours to meet the activity test?

When calculating study hours (part-time or full-time), include course contact hours, study outside course contact hours, and breaks such as term breaks. You will need to undertake at least eight hours of study per fortnight to be entitled to 36 hours of subsidised child care per child, per fortnight.

My activity levels will change regularly. How do I update this information?

You can change or update your activity test details whenever you need to. You can do this via your myGov account, including via an app on your smartphone. Updating your details whenever they change will help you avoid getting a debt.

How will being on Parenting Payment affect my activity test result?

If you are in receipt of a Parenting Payment and you have a compulsory mutual obligation requirement, you are automatically entitled to 36 hours of subsidised care per fortnight to support your mutual obligation requirements.

If you do more than 16 hours of activity per fortnight to satisfy your compulsory mutual obligation requirements or in combination with other recognised activities, you are entitled to more hours of subsidised care.

If you are exempt from mutual obligation requirements, you are also exempt from the Child Care Subsidy activity test and entitled to 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight, except where the mutual obligation exemption recognises responsibilities to care for children including home schooling or distance educating children.

If you are in receipt of Parenting Payment but do not have a compulsory mutual obligation requirement, you need to meet the activity test (unless you are eligible for a different activity test exemption).

Do I need to do additional activity if I am on Carer Payment or Carer Allowance?

If you are on Carer Payment your activity test result is 100 hours per fortnight. If you are providing constant care for someone but don't qualify for Carer Payment, because of the income or assets test requirement, your activity test result is also 100 hours per fortnight.

As a Carer Allowance recipient, you meet the activity test and have an automatic entitlement to 72 hours per fortnight. This can be increased to 100 hours per fortnight if combined with another recognised activity. If you have a partner, they also need to meet the activity test. The hours of subsidised care per fortnight you are entitled to as a family, is based on whomever has the lower activity level.

Do grandparents with a disability need to meet the activity test?

Grandparents who are the primary carers for their grandchildren are exempt from the activity test.

Is parental leave considered an activity?

If you undertake paid work, and paid or unpaid parental leave is a condition of your employment (as an employee or contractor), then this is considered to be part of your paid work. The hours of activity will be the same as what they were immediately prior to you commencing parental leave but it needs to be at least eight hours per fortnight. So, if you were working part-time or full time, then you are still considered to be a part-time or full-time employee while you are on parental leave.

There is no time limit on the amount of time you can be on unpaid parental leave but there is an expectation that you will be returning to work at some point as a condition of your employment.

Is looking after my own children considered an activity?

Looking after your own children at home does not count as an activity.

Does being on sickness benefit impact on the activity test?

Depending on what type of sickness benefit you receive, this may qualify as meeting the activity test.

Is travel time considered an activity?

You can include a reasonable amount of travel time to and from the child care service to your place of work, study or other recognised activity.

I'm a teacher. Does the work I do at home count towards my activity hours?

If you are a teacher, school holidays count as they are part of your conditions of employment. Planning lessons at home would be considered to be part of your normal requirements and wouldn't count as extra activity hours.

Is working in a family business a recognised activity?

Yes. Working in a family business owned by a member of your immediate family such as your partner, your parent or your parent's partner, a sibling, one of your adult children or their partner, or another person as determined by the Department of Human Services, is a recognised activity.

What is approved study?

An approved course of study means a secondary or tertiary course. The study activity requirements include:

  • level two (Certificate II) to 6 (Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree)
  • level 8 (Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma)
  • level 7 (Bachelor Degree)
  • a secondary course or preparatory course.

Is being self-employed a recognised activity?

Being self-employed is a recognised activity, as is setting up a business (for a maximum of six months).

Is volunteering a recognised activity?

Yes. The definition of voluntary work is activities which could be expected to improve your work skills or employment prospects (or both); voluntary work for a charitable, welfare or community organisation; or voluntary work for a school, preschool or centre based day care service, if the work directly supports the learning and development of the children at the school, preschool or service. If volunteering is your only activity, you will be eligible for the first step of the activity test (36 hours of subsidised care per fortnight).

I spend several hours each week coaching the school hockey team, is this recognised as activity for the Child Care Subsidy activity test?

Yes, if you are undertaking a role coaching children for a community or school sporting team, the hours you spend coaching the team can be recognised as hours of voluntary work for the Child Care Subsidy activity test.

Hours spent participating in sporting events or being a spectator are not recognised as voluntary work for the Child Care Subsidy activity test.

Can I count the hours I volunteer in the school canteen each Wednesday for the Child Care Subsidy activity test?

Yes, hours spent volunteering your time to assist or manage the school canteen/tuck shop can be counted as hours of voluntary work for the Child Care Subsidy activity test.

I am the treasurer of the Parents and Citizens Committee for my daughter's high school, which involves spending several hours each fortnight completing administrative tasks. Does this count as voluntary work for Child Care Subsidy activity test?

Yes, if you are a member or holder of a designated position on the school Parents and Citizens' Committee or the school Board, the hours spent fulfilling your role can be recognised as voluntary work for the Child Care Subsidy activity test.

Hours spent simply attending Parents and Citizens Committee meetings (not as a member) are not recognised as voluntary work, as this activity is generally considered to be a parental responsibility.

Does the total amount of hours calculated include lunch breaks?

Yes. Lunch breaks are usually a condition of employment and considered to be part of normal work requirements, therefore they can be included in hours of activity reported for the Child Care Subsidy activity test.

I am self-employed and starting up a business. How do you calculate that?

The Child Care Subsidy activity test recognises hours spent actively setting up a business that has not yet started to operate for a maximum of six months in a 12-month period. The six months do not need to be reported consecutively and may be used to report hours of setting up more than one business.

Individuals setting up a business should calculate and report the total hours spent each fortnight on activities such as obtaining finance, advice and support, attending and organising events and meetings, and developing business, marketing or other plans.

As is the case for the other recognised activities, this activity is self-declared at claim or when updating your circumstances. You might wish to keep a timesheet of your activities and relevant documents in case you are required to produce them as part of the random spot check process.

If you have ceased setting up a business (i.e. you have decided not to go ahead with this business), you should notify Centrelink of this change as it may affect how many hours of subsidised care you are entitled to access.

Once your business has started to operate, you should update your circumstances and report your hours of activity per fortnight as self‑employed (i.e. undertaking paid work).

Is my elder child eligible for Child Care Subsidy when I am on maternity leave with my younger child?

The answer to this question depends on individual circumstances of your elder child such as their age and whether they attend school.

Generally, in terms of the activity test, paid and unpaid parental leave counts as paid work if it is taken in accordance with the terms and conditions of your employment or contract. The hours of recognised activity that you report should reflect the number of hours you were working prior to taking leave.

Paid and unpaid parental leave are not time limited for the Child Care Subsidy activity test. However, in the case of unpaid parental leave, there is an expectation that you will be returning to work at some point as a condition of your employment. When claiming or updating your circumstances that affect your Child Care Subsidy, you will self‑declare your level of activity. Centrelink may ask some families to provide evidence as part of their random spot checks.

I'm employed full time but currently taking part time maternity leave. Do I put the hours working as full time or my current working hours as part time?

If you are on parental leave, you should report the number of hours you were working immediately prior to taking parental leave for the Child Care Subsidy activity test.

If you wish to use the Department of Human Services Payment and Service Finder and you are currently on parental leave or about to take parental leave, you should enter the number of hours of paid work you participated in per fortnight, prior to taking leave.

What support is available for families with children who are/may be at risk?

Families in these circumstances may be able to access the Additional Child Care Subsidy, subject to individual circumstances. This includes child wellbeing or temporary financial hardship subsidy.

Does Additional Child Care Subsidy cover all my fees?

Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) is equal to 100 per cent of your actual fees up to 120 per cent of the relevant hourly rate cap. Or, for Additional Child Care Subsidy (transition to work), it covers 95 per cent of your actual fees, up to 95 per cent of the relevant hourly rate cap. Families who are transitioning from income support to work by engaging in work, study or training activities and have a Job Plan in effect are supported by Additional Child Care Subsidy (transition to work).

If you are a foster carer, are you able to claim the Additional Child Care Subsidy for the child under your care?

As part of Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing), children in foster care may be eligible to receive additional child care fee assistance, depending on their circumstances. Eligible families do not have to meet the Child Care Subsidy activity test, and are able to access a subsidy that is equal to the actual fee charged by providers, up to 120 per cent of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap, for a maximum of 100 hours per fortnight.

To be eligible for an Additional Child Care Subsidy payment, the foster parent must also meet the general Child Care Subsidy eligibility requirements in relation to the child. In circumstances where foster carers are not liable for the child care fees (i.e. the state covers the child care fee costs), they are not eligible for Child Care Subsidy.

What relationships are covered by Additional Child Care Subsidy (grandparent)? Does this include great grandparents, great aunts, kinship carers or next of kin relationships?

Additional Child Care Subsidy (grandparent) provides ongoing increased child care fee assistance to grandparents on income support who are the principal carers of their grandchild.

A grandparent or a great-grandparent includes a natural, adoptive or step grandparent (or great-grandparent) of the grandchild, or the grandparent's (or great-grandparent's) current or former partner.

Eligible grandparents receive a subsidy equal to the actual fee charged by the child care service, up to 120 per cent of the Child Care Subsidy hourly rate cap for up to 100 hours per fortnight. These grandparents do not have to meet the activity test requirements.

What happens where the number of children eligible for Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) reaches 50 per cent?

Generally, providers can give certificates until up to 50 per cent of the children attending a service are receiving Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing). While there is no limit to the number of children at a service accessing Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing), the approval process changes once a service reaches 50 per cent.

If a service reaches or exceeds the 50 per cent limit, additional certificates given do not take effect and services need to apply to Centrelink to make a determination for additional children to be eligible for Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing). Centrelink will make a decision within 28 days from the date of application. Determinations, once made, apply at any service of any provider the child is attending.

In certain circumstances, providers can ask for a particular service's percentage of children with certificates to be changed. Requests must be made in writing using the form available on the Department of Education and Training's website and must outline the reasons for the request. The Department of Education and Training assesses these requests and adjusts the percentage limit (if deemed appropriate) on a case-by-case basis.

How many weeks can the Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) be applied for?

Generally, providers can give an Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) certificate for up to six weeks for a child. This gives immediate access to the Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) for the child at the particular service. For further periods of Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing), the provider must apply to Centrelink for a determination for up to 13 weeks at a time. There is no limit to how many determinations can be made for a child as long as supporting evidence is provided that the child continues to be at risk.

Who do providers notify for an Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) application? What guidance is available on what notifications are required?

When a provider gives a certificate for an Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) to Centrelink, the provider will need to 'give notice' to an appropriate state or territory body within six weeks. There is more information provided in the Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) guide.

If a family has accessed Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) from another service, is there a way to check if there is a certificate from that service?

A certificate can only be given for a particular child in a particular service. If a child is enrolled in multiple services from the same provider, a certificate will need to be given for each service.

There may be a small number of families who 'shop around' for child care providers that will give a certificate even where the child is not at risk of serious abuse or neglect. Providers do not need to, and should not give, a certificate (or make an application) for Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) because a family requests it. Providers need to make their own decisions about a child's situation based on their observations and/or other evidence before making a certificate. Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) certificates can be backdated up to 28 days, so a family can enrol their child and use your service first while considering their request. If you give a certificate and then reconsider based on your further observations, you may cancel the certificate.

Families who state that their children are at risk of serious abuse or neglect, when they are not, may face significant debts. Additionally, providing false or misleading information to the Commonwealth is an offence.

How does ACCS (child wellbeing) assist children at risk?

ACCS (child wellbeing) provides a higher rate of assistance than the CCS (Child Care Subsidy) to ensure the cost of child care is not a barrier to supporting children 'at risk'.

A provider is generally able to give a certificate for up to six weeks if they consider a child is 'at risk'. If the provider thinks the child will continue to be at risk for longer than six weeks, they may make an application for a determination to the Department of Human Services. 

The determination could be rejected

The Department of Human Services may reject an application for determination if the evidence does not meet the evidence requirements set out in the Guide to ACCS (Child wellbeing). We recommend that all services become familiar with the evidence requirements within the guide to ensure that determination applications are lodged with adequate supporting documents.

Some common reasons are:

  • an application does not meet the minimum amount of evidence required for DHS to determine whether a child remains at risk and/or
  • the evidence supplied is older than the maximum 6 month age of evidence requirement.

How can providers improve the chances of an approved determination?

Ensure evidence provided contains sufficient information

A determination of a child 'at risk' need to be made in accordance with the Minister's rules. If you don't have enough evidence from an acceptable source to support your application it will be rejected. You must provide third party evidence which contains:

  • Statements that are clear and precise. Anything vague or insufficient will not help the DHS Officer assess the claim against the Rules.
  • Authors statements need to be specific, and:
    • meet the minimum requirements that shows that the particular child (name and date of birth) has experienced serious abuse or neglect in the past, at present, or is likely to experience harm in the future
    • describe the severity of the risk – that it is serious, and if it is about the future, there is a real likelihood of it happening
    • indicate the period the child is likely to be 'at risk'
    • the supporting document should be signed and dated by the person providing it
    • the individual providing third party evidence should state that they have reviewed the criteria for ACCS (child wellbeing) and detail which criteria they believe the child meets.

Ensure any evidence provided is less than 6 months old

Any supporting evidence should be less than 6 months old. This is to ensure that any information and statements made in the evidence are current and up-to-date.

The six month age of evidence rule also applies to Children placed in the care and protection of the Minister and subject to a long term care placement.  If original court documentation is older than 6 months the evidence should include an accompanying letter from a state based child protection agency (no more than 6 months old) advising that the care arrangements are still in place. Either of these documents need to show: the child's name (or children's names), carer names that the child has been placed with and indicate the period the child is likely to be 'at risk'.

Providers should follow the detailed guidance for their state or territory to make an ACCS (child wellbeing) referral. If there is no specific guidance provided for a state or territory, the generic instructions in the Guide to ACCS (Child Wellbeing) should be followed.

What is the yearly limit?

For most families (i.e. those earning $186,958 or less) there is no longer an annual cap on the amount of subsidy you can receive. For families earning more than $186,958 and under $351,248, an increased annual subsidy cap of $10,190 per child, per year applies.

Do educators need a working with children check and a national police check or does the working with children check cover the police check?

Each state/territory determines who requires a working with children card. In some states, when a working with children card is obtained, a police check is done automatically. In other states, it is not.

The process for obtaining a working with children card and some of the terms used in the screening process vary in each jurisdiction so it is important that child care personnel seek advice about how to obtain a working with children card from the relevant regulatory body in their state or territory. Each state or territory will have a different regulatory body responsible for working with children checks.

Australian Institute of Family Studies outlines the screening requirements for the working with children card in each state and territory and provides contact details for the relevant authority.

What are the requirements for people working in child care?

Providers must ensure that all relevant individuals are 'fit and proper persons' for the purposes of Family Assistance Law.

To help determine whether people are 'fit and proper persons', the provider must carry out the following checks for each person and the provider must be able to show a written record of these checks, including the evidence provided in support of the applications.

A police check must be no more than 6 months old, and other checks no more than 3 months old, at the time of application or the addition of a specified person to the provider's approval.

Checks required

A person with management or control of the provider

A person with responsibility for day-to-day operation of the service

A Family Day Care or In Home Care educator

A National Police Certificate from the state or territory police service (or an agency accredited by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission) no more than six months before the date of the application

Yes

Yes

Yes

A check in relation to the issue of a working with children card (if required to hold one)

Yes

Yes

Yes

A National Personal Insolvency Index check performed using the Bankruptcy Register Search service provided by the Australian Financial Security Authority

Yes

   

A Current and Historical personal name extract search of the records of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission

Yes

   

Where can families see their outcome of Child Care Subsidy assessment or claim?

Once Centrelink has finalised the assessment or claim, the individual applying will be sent a notice of the outcome. If they get their letters online, the letter will be sent to their myGov inbox telling them if they are eligible and the child care fee assistance they will get.

The individual needs to select Child Care Subsidy from the menu and then Child Care Subsidy Summary to see the letter.

The Child Care Subsidy summary table lists the Child's Name, Subsidy Type, Subsidy Percentage, Subsidised hours per fortnight, the annual cap and withholding amount.

What happens with the Child Care Subsidy when we move to another centre during the year?

You should inform your child care service of the date you intend to cease your child's enrolment (note – some services have a minimum notice period to cease regular care bookings – check with your service). The child care service should advise Centrelink of the agreed enrolment end date. If not, the enrolment will automatically end after eight weeks of non-attendance. The child care service must not report your child as being absent after the last day they physically attended care. You will receive a notification through myGov to confirm when the enrolment ends.

To continue to be eligible for Child Care Subsidy you will need to check that your new service is approved by the Department of Education and Training to receive CCS payments on your behalf.

In order for you to receive Child Care Subsidy payments at the new child care service, the provider of the service is responsible for creating a Complying Written Arrangement (CWA) with you. This will set out the care arrangement such as when your child will attend care, and the fees you will be charged. The amount of Child Care Subsidy you receive may change depending on each child care service's fees and length of sessions. It is important that you read the information in the CWA carefully, and ask the service to explain if anything is unclear.

The new service will submit an enrolment notice for your child to Centrelink. Centrelink will then send you a notification asking you to review the details of the new enrolment. Once you confirm the details in your enrolment, Child Care Subsidy will be payable once the provider submits session reports for sessions of care provided.

You do not need to contact Centrelink to advise of any changes to your child care provider.

How is income calculated and what if it changes during a financial year?

Your Child Care Subsidy percentage is based on your estimated combined annual family income. Your actual subsidy entitlement will be worked out at end of year reconciliation when your actual adjusted taxable income is known (after you have lodged your tax return). The easiest way to estimate your income is to base it on your previous year's tax return as well as any expected pay rises.

You should put current salary in, if this is what you estimate your salary will be for the whole year. Don't forget to include your partner's salary, if you have one, as it is calculated based on combined annual family income. Because some families are unable to estimate their income accurately, 5 per cent of your weekly Child Care Subsidy entitlement will be withheld. Following reconciliation, if you haven't received enough Child Care Subsidy based on your adjusted taxable income you will receive a lump sum payment; if you have been paid too much Child Care Subsidy, you will have a debt to repay.

On which financial year are the income thresholds based?

The income thresholds are based on the 2018-19 financial year.

Is superannuation considered family income?

To find out more about what this includes, go to humanservices.gov.au or ato.gov.au and search for Adjusted Taxable Income or visit www.ato.gov.au/individuals/lodging-your-tax-return/in-detail/what-is-income-/.

Are Centrelink payments part of my income?

Yes, they need to be taken into account when you estimate your combined annual family income.

Is child support considered family income?

Entitlement to the Child Care Subsidy is based on your estimated combined annual family income.

To find out more about what this includes, go to humanservices.gov.au or the ato.gov.au and search for Adjusted Taxable Income or visit www.ato.gov.au/individuals/lodging-your-tax-return/in-detail/what-is-income-/ .

How do I estimate my yearly income when I work odd hours?

Your Child Care Subsidy percentage is based on your estimated combined annual family income. Your actual subsidy entitlement will be worked out at end of year reconciliation when your actual adjusted taxable income is known.

The easiest way to estimate your income is to base it on your previous year's tax return as well as any expected pay rises. Because some families are unable to estimate their income accurately, 5 per cent of your weekly Child Care Subsidy entitlement will be withheld.

Following reconciliation, if you haven't received enough Child Care Subsidy based on your adjusted taxable income you will receive a lump sum payment. If you have been paid too much Child Care Subsidy, you will have a debt to repay.

Can I overestimate my income to ensure I have no debt?

The Child Care Subsidy is designed to help parents meet child care costs by reducing fees payable to their child care service throughout the year.

Your Child Care Subsidy percentage will be based on your estimated combined annual family income. Your actual subsidy entitlement will be worked out at end of year reconciliation when your actual adjusted taxable income (ATI) is known.

You should provide a reasonable estimate of your combined annual family income in your claim for Child Care Subsidy. You can decide whether to base your estimate on your actual adjusted taxable income from the previous financial year, or take into account any subsequent change in circumstances that would affect your estimated income for the following year (such as an expected or actual pay rise or a change of employment). If you are unsure what your actual income will be, you can estimate the highest amount you realistically expect you could earn, to help avoid an overpayment.

You can also update this estimate at any time to reflect a change in your circumstances that might affect your Child Care Subsidy percentage.

To help families avoid an end of year debt a portion of Child Care Subsidy is also withheld each fortnight. The default withholding amount is 5 per cent. This means that you will pay a little extra to your child care service as part of the fees paid during the year. Following reconciliation, any outstanding amounts owed will be paid directly to you as a lump sum. You will also be able to request a higher withholding rate if you are concerned your actual income at the end of the financial year may be higher than your estimate.

How does salary sacrifice impact on the Child Care Subsidy?

To be eligible for Child Care Subsidy, families must also be liable to pay for care provided. You must be the one responsible for your child care costs. If your employer contributes to your child care through salary sacrificing or packaging, you should discuss with them who is responsible for the cost. The issue of liability depends on who is obligated to pay for the child care fees.

If you salary sacrifice the cost of child care fees so that your employer has the legal liability to pay the fees (and not you), you are not eligible for Child Care Subsidy for the child care costs paid under your agreement. Payment of child care fees by an employer is only exempt from fringe benefit tax if the employer is legally liable for the fees. If you are not sure who is legally obliged to pay the fees, you will need to clarify this with your employer.

Does combined family income include investment income such as shares and property investment?

The following can contribute to your and your partner's, if you have one, combined annual adjusted taxable income:

  • taxable income (including income from wages, a business, investments and any taxable income support payments)
  • foreign income (including tax exempt foreign income)
  • total net investment losses
  • reportable fringe benefits
  • reportable superannuation contributions
  • certain tax free pensions or benefits
  • superannuation income stream benefits (including both taxable and non-taxable components),
  • less any child support payments provided to another person.

If you would like to know more about what contributes to your adjusted taxable income, you can visit www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/adjusted-taxable-income/29571

For more information about your family income estimate visit www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/your-family-income-estimate/29991#a3

What if my child is absent from child care?

Families are entitled to 42 absence days per child, per financial year, and may be entitled to additional absence days in certain circumstances (including illness of the child, a parent or sibling). In shared care arrangements, the allocation of 42 absences per financial year relates to the child, not each individual claimant.

Under the Child Care Subsidy, when a child does not attend care on a day they are scheduled to attend, providers are able to claim an absence for the child up to 42 times in a financial year, so long as on the day the absence is claimed, Child Care Subsidy would have been claimed (i.e. the child would have otherwise been in care, and the family hasn't already reached their fortnightly entitlement of subsidised hours based on their activity test result).

Can child care services stop charging fees when children are absent?

Fee charging practices are commercial decisions made by child care services and are not a matter regulated by the Family Assistance Law. Families are entitled to 42 absence days per child, per financial year and additional absences in certain circumstances (including illness of the child, a parent or sibling).

Do children need to be re-enrolled for every new period of vacation care following a school term?

Enrolments will automatically end if your child does not attend care for eight continuous weeks, including vacation care.

If your child returns to care at the same service after a previous enrolment has ended, your provider will need to re-establish the care arrangement with you and submit a new enrolment notice to Centrelink. You will need to confirm the new enrolment through your Centrelink online account or Express Plus app. Confirming enrolment details should be a quick and simple process, provided you understand what you have agreed with your provider and the details entered in the enrolment notice accurately reflect this arrangement.

Care arrangements between parents and providers (including what care the parent agrees to pay for and how much) are central to determining eligibility for Child Care Subsidy. As such, parents and providers should always review their care arrangement after an extended break between sessions of care, to ensure it is up to date and both parties continue to agree on the terms of the arrangement.

Most child care services charge for public holidays even though the centre is closed. Is the subsidy available for these days?

Yes. Families are entitled to receive Child Care Subsidy for up to 42 allowable absence days per child, per financial year.

These absences can be taken for any reason without the need for families to provide documentation. This is to ensure continuity of fee relief for families where they are required to pay for child care when their children are absent from care, due to situations such as illness, public holidays, parental leave and other absence reasons.

Additional absence days beyond the initial 42 allowable absences are available for the following reasons, defined in the Family Assistance Law:

  • Your child, yourself, your partner or another person with whom the child lives is ill.
  • Your child is attending preschool.
  • Alternative arrangements have been made on a pupil-free day.
  • Your child has not been immunised against a particular 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 your child.
  • The absence is because your 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.
  • The service is closed as a direct result of a period of local emergency.
  • Your child cannot attend because of a local emergency (e.g. because they are unable to travel to the service), during the period of the emergency or up to 28 days afterwards.
  • You have decided that your child should not attend the service for up to seven days immediately following the end of a period of local emergency.

Evidence will be required for additional absence days.

Is a child with a disability eligible for an Additional Child Care Subsidy?

The Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) is for children who are at risk of serious abuse or harm. Being disabled does not qualify someone for Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing) unless the child is also 'at risk'.

If I am on a Disability Support Pension, am I exempt from the activity test?

Yes, if you are on Disability Support Pension you are exempt from the activity test and eligible for up to 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight.

How is disability defined?

Being a person with a disability means that you are receiving Disability Support Payment, an invalidity service pension, or are someone who has been diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner as impaired to a significant degree and is unable to work.

How is the subsidy calculated for families with more than one child in care?

The percentage of Child Care Subsidy a family is entitled to is based on combined annual family income and is applied on a per child basis, regardless the number of children in a family or their age.

While the Child Care Subsidy does not include different rates and complex loadings to provide greater assistance to families with multiple children, it is better targeted and provides more assistance for low and middle income families in relation to all children.

If my child is in secondary school, but is only 12, am I eligible for the subsidy?

To be eligible, your child must be 13 or under and not attending secondary school. Exemptions to this are available in certain circumstances, for example, where the child is 13 and under and is attending secondary school and cannot reasonably be left alone.

I work full time but my partner doesn't do any paid work. What are we eligible for?

In a two parent family, both parents must be undertaking activities, or have an exemption, to be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy.

How does shared care of my children affect my eligibility?

If you pay the fees on your own, then your subsidy is based on your income estimate and hours of activity. If you have a shared custody arrangement and you share the child care fees, then each parent is assessed separately and both of you can claim up to your fortnightly limit of hours. It is expected that you would only use the hours of subsidised care between you that you need, not the combined total of your separate assessments.

Can I get more than 100 hours of subsidised care?

The maximum hours of subsidised care is 100 per fortnight, per child. Your balance will reduce over the fortnight as you use child care and you have to pay full fees for any hours over your set amount. Your fees and the subsidy will be based on the length of the sessions you agree with your child care service. Services have the flexibility to offer shorter sessions of care to cater for the needs of their communities.

In exceptional circumstances families can make an application to Centrelink and provide documentary evidence of their circumstances. Centrelink will consider these applications and may make a case-by-case determination of the hours of subsidised care families will be entitled to, which could be more than 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight.

Are children who are attending high school, but because of a disability cannot be left unsupervised during school holidays, eligible for Child Care Subsidy?

Under the Child Care Subsidy, eligibility is limited to children who are 13 and under and not attending secondary school. However, there are exemptions to the eligibility criteria if your child is:

  • 13 years of age or under attending secondary school
  • 13 years of age or under with a disability attending secondary school, or
  • 14 to 18 years of age with a disability attending secondary school.

If a parent has a child in one of these circumstances, they are able to indicate their child has a disability in the Child Care Subsidy claim, or when updating their circumstances. For their eligibility to be considered they need to include evidence of their child's disability or medical condition (such as a letter, certificate, report or appointment letter or referral for an assessment). Alternatively, if the child is a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant, the claimant can provide the child's NDIS participant number as evidence. Additionally, all claimants must provide a statutory declaration outlining:

  • why the child cannot reasonably be left at home alone in the circumstances, and
  • that no adult is able to provide suitable care in the circumstances.

Once eligible, claimants are subsidized for their child with a disability to attend any type of approved child care service, including outside school hours care during the school holidays.

How do I find out if I will be out of pocket?

You can get an estimate of what your family may be entitled to by entering your details into the Department of Human Services Payment and Service Finder.

What is the 'enrolment start date'?

The 'Enrolment start date' for a Child Care Subsidy enrolment is the date the parent and provider establish the care arrangement (not the child's first day of care). Help text in Centrelink Online explains 'Enrolment start date' during the enrolment confirmation process; "this is the date you entered into an arrangement with a child care service to provide care to your child." However, you may wish to also explain this to your families to avoid parents unnecessarily disputing an enrolment.

How will providers reflect different arrangements in an enrolment notice?

An enrolment notice needs to identify the expected pattern of care, based on the Complying Written Arrangement. This could be:

  • routine sessions, with casual care permitted
  • casual enrolment – no routine sessions are included
  • routine sessions only – casual care is not included.

What flexibility is there for routine and/or casual care arrangements?

The level of flexibility in a care arrangement is a matter for the provider and parent to decide and the details must be outlined in the Complying Written Arrangement. This includes whether the arrangement includes routine sessions (booked days), casual care, or a mix of routine and casual care. If there are routine sessions, the arrangement must include the usual days, session times, and the usual fee for those sessions. For casual care, the arrangement should include relevant terms, for example, any minimum period of care or that care is subject to availability and fees.

If there is a family who is routinely enrolled for three days per week and they need a one-off extra day for one week, does the enrolment notice need to be updated?

Once a Complying Written Arrangement has been entered into, an enrolment notice must be submitted that reflects this arrangement. If the Complying Written Arrangement (and enrolment notice) includes possible casual care arrangements, then no update is necessary.

The Complying Written Arrangement and enrolment notice must only be updated if the arrangement has changed on an ongoing basis, for example, three routine days have been changed to four because the parent has increased their regular work days.

Do children need to be re-enrolled for every new period of vacation care following a school term? Doesn't the enrolment cease after eight weeks of non-attendance?

All enrolments (not just enrolments for vacation care) cease if 8 continuous weeks have passed since the child last attended a session of child care. The process for re-enrolling a child at the same service can be streamlined. For example, the provider and parent can agree to use the Complying Written Arrangement that was in place during the previous enrolment as the basis for the new Complying Written Arrangement and enrolment and update relevant details such as any change in fees, or sessions of care.

Once the Complying Written Arrangement has been re-established the provider submits the new enrolment notice, which could be prefilled with basic information from the child's previous enrolment. At a minimum, the provider would need to give a new 'start date' for the new enrolment.

The parents then need to confirm details about the new enrolment through Centrelink Online or the Express Plus mobile phone app.

What if a family has a regular booking and then they change it, do they need to confirm it?

No. The parent will receive a notification through their Centrelink account in myGov to say that the provider has updated their enrolment notice. Parents will be able to view the updated details but are not required to confirm they are correct. A parent may disagree with the update if they believe it does not reflect the current terms of their Complying Written Arrangement.

What happens if parents do not have Internet access to confirm their enrolment, is there another option available?

Once a Complying Written Arrangement is entered into, the provider must submit an enrolment notice that reflects the details of that arrangement. Parents receive notices from Centrelink according to the preference they have indicated. For example, if the parent's preference is to receive hardcopy letters in the mail, they receive a letter from Centrelink requesting them to confirm the enrolment.

Prior to Child Care Subsidy being payable, the parent who is claiming Child Care Subsidy must confirm that the enrolment is accurate. This can be done through an individual's Centrelink Online account or the Centrelink Express Plus mobile app. Where the parent is unable to access the Internet, they may contact Centrelink over the phone or in person, at a Centrelink office, to confirm the enrolment.

Do providers get notification that parents have confirmed the enrolment notice details?

Yes, the provider is notified through their third party software or the Provider Entry Point when the enrolment has been confirmed by the parent.

Providers receive a notification if the parent has indicated the enrolment details are not correct, including which aspect the parent believes is incorrect.

Do providers get a notification in relation to parents that have not yet confirmed that their enrolments are correct?

Yes, providers are able to view the status of each enrolment submitted, through their third party software or the Provider Entry Point.

Do families have to confirm enrolments?

Yes, the Child Care Subsidy can only be paid to you on behalf of families if they have confirmed their child's enrolment details.

You must submit an enrolment notice through your third party software or the Provider Entry Point (PEP) to indicate that you have entered into an arrangement with a family to provide care.

The family receives a notice from Centrelink requesting them to review and check the enrolment details. The person who is claiming Child Care Subsidy must confirm the enrolment if they agree the details are correct, dispute the details of the enrolment if they believe they do not reflect the agreed arrangement with their provider, or reject the enrolment if the child is not enrolled at the service.

This can be done in their Centrelink Online account through myGov (www.my.gov.au/) or the Centrelink Express Plus mobile app.

Where a family is unable to access the Internet to confirm the enrolment, they may do so by contacting Centrelink over the phone.

You are notified through your third party software when the family has confirmed the enrolment. This is also visible through the PEP. You also receive a notification if the family has indicated the enrolment details are not correct.

You can view the status of each enrolment submitted, through your third party software or the PEP.

Chapter 3 of the Child Care Provider Handbook has more information on enrolling children.

What is the correct enrolment start date?

Under Family Assistance Law, an enrolment starts on the day a provider enters into a complying written arrangement (CWA) with the parent (i.e. the day the parent confirms their agreement to the arrangement). You must enter this date as the start date in the enrolment notice.

What if I don't submit an enrolment within the required timeframe?

You need to submit an enrolment notice in the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) system within 7 days of entering into a CWA with a family. Providers are expected to comply with all legislative requirements, and the department uses the CCS system to record and monitor possible breaches.

If you realise that you have not met this timeframe, you should submit the enrolment notice as soon as possible. You will receive a message noting you did not meet the legislated timeframe on this occasion. The department may hold late enrolment notices for review, which can delay processing of session reports.

When do enrolments cease?

Generally, enrolments 'cease' when the CWA or other care arrangement ends, for example, because the child no longer attends your service. You don't have to give an enrolment end date when you submit the initial (200A) enrolment notice. Once you know the enrolment end date, you can add it at any time by submitting a (200D) enrolment update.

If you do not enter an enrolment end date and the child stops attending your service, the CCS system will automatically end date the enrolment 8 weeks after the child last attended a session of care at your service.

What happens when absences occur before and after a child attends your service?

You may have noticed that absences from sessions of care are not eligible for CCS/ACCS when they occur before a child first attends your service under a new enrolment, or after the child last attends under an enrolment.
Subsidy is not paid for absences submitted before the first attendance under a new enrolment. Absences submitted after the last attendance may be paid, however, these amounts will be recovered if the child does not attend another session of care before the enrolment ceases.

How will providers submit new enrolments in advance?

We know some services like to set up new enrolments well before children start care. However, you should be aware that if an enrolment start date is more than 8 weeks before the child first attends, the enrolment will be ceased in the CCS system before the child starts attending care.

To avoid this occurring, as well as having to re-establish CWAs and resubmit enrolment notices, it is best to delay establishing the CWA with the parent until it is less than 8 weeks before the child is expected to start attending. You could still consider holding a place for a child for more than 8 weeks, then waiting until it is closer the child's first attendance to confirm the CWA with the parent.

How will providers re-enrol a child whose enrolment has ceased?

Where a child's enrolment has ceased and they need to be re-enrolled (such as a child who only attends each school holidays) the process can be streamlined for the family and the provider. For example, if most of the details in the previous CWA have not changed since the last enrolment, you might simply confirm this with the parent when they want to re-enrol their child. At a minimum, there will be a different start date for the new enrolment (the date you and the parent confirmed that the previous arrangement still applies). If other details have changed since the last enrolment, such as your fees or  the child's routine sessions, you would need to reflect this in an updated CWA.

Submitting a new enrolment notice in the CCS can also be streamlined for a re-enrolment. Where supported by your software, the new enrolment notice may be pre-filled with details from the child's previous enrolment, so you only need to update details that have changed. Check with your software provider how this process works for you.

The parent will need to confirm the new enrolment before CCS can be paid to you on their behalf. Parents can confirm enrolments through Centrelink Online or the Express Plus mobile phone app.

Where in the Family Assistance Law does it say that there is no eligibility for Child Care Subsidy for a Family Day Care educator who provides care to a child related to them?

Subparagraph 85BA(1)(c)(iii) of the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999 (the Family Assistance Act), states there are circumstances prescribed in the Child Care Subsidy Minister's Rules 2017 (Minister's Rules) when an individual will not be eligible for Child Care Subsidy for a session of care where the care is provided by a Family Day Care educator (or their partner) to a child that is related to the educator or their partner.

Further to the Family Assistance Act, subsection 8(3) of the Minister's Rules provides that if the Family Day Care educator provides care to children to whom they are related they are not eligible for Child Care Subsidy if the child is one (or more) of the following with respect to the Family Day Care educator or the partner of the Family Day Care educator:

  1. Family Tax Benefit child;
  2. regular care child;
  3. foster care child;
  4. biological or adopted child;
  5. brother, sister, half brother, half sister, step brother or step sister;
  6. a child (not mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (e)) for whom the Family Day Care educator or partner has legal responsibility, as described in paragraph 22(5)(a) or (b) of the Family Assistance Act.

Can a Family Day Care educator still care for extended family under the Family Assistance Law?

There are restrictions under the Family Assistance Law about Family Day Care educators providing care for children who are related to them. The Family Assistance Law specifies care that is not eligible for Child Care Subsidy, but does allow for some care to be provided to related children.

Section 47 of the Minister's Rules provides that within each Child Care Subsidy fortnight, the Family Day Care educator must make sure that less than 50% of children in care are related to them, and that more than 50% of children in care are not related to them.

The ratio is applied across all of the children cared for across the whole fortnight, and not to just one particular session.

If a Family Day Care educator is not married to their partner, is their partner's child counted as a relative of the educator?

Yes, children that are relatives of a Family Day Care educator's partner must be counted as a relative of the Family Day Care educator. The law treats de-facto relationships in the same way as marital relationships. These partnerships establish familial relationships.

On this basis, the relatives of a Family Day Care educator's partner (by de facto or marriage) are considered relatives of the Family Day Care educator. Related children should be treated as prescribed in section 47 of the Minister's Rules if the Family Day Care educator is providing care for them during the Child Care Subsidy fortnight.

What happens if a Family Day Care educator is caring for both related and non-related children in care and meets the 50% rule, but the non-related children then leave? Is there a grace period to allow care to continue to be eligible for Child Care Subsidy for the relatives until new enrolments of non-relative children takes place? If so, how long is the grace period?

No, the legislation does not provide for a grace period in these circumstances. The "care for less than 50% related children" requirement applies to each Child Care Subsidy fortnight. If a Family Day Care educator has non-related children leave their service, then they still need to maintain the "care for less than 50% related children" for each Child Care Subsidy fortnight.

In the event that non-related children leave care, the Family Day Care educator should approach their provider and make arrangements to ensure they will provide care for enough non-related children within the current Child Care Subsidy fortnight.

This is necessary to comply with section 47 of the Minister's Rules, which provides that within each Child Care Subsidy fortnight the Family Day Care educator must make sure that less than 50% of children in care are related to them, and that more than 50% of children in care are not related to them.

The ratio is applied across all of the children cared for across the whole fortnight, and not to just one particular session.

Can a Family Day Care educator provide care only to children related to them?

No. The child care payments system is not designed to support care that would otherwise occur within family structures and which is unlikely to attract genuine commercial fees.

Family Day Care, like all child care services, must be providing commercial child care for a commercial fee. The majority of children in the care of a Family Day Care educator must be children not related to the educator.

To be compliant with the Family Assistance Law, a Family Day Care educator has to make sure that in a Child Care Subsidy fortnight, less than 50% of children in care are related to them as a niece, nephew, cousin, grandchild, or great grandchild.

The ratio is applied across all of the children cared for across the whole fortnight, and not to just one particular session.

Are great nieces and great nephews considered relatives of Family Day Care educators for the "care for less than 50% related children" rule?

In most cases, extended relatives such as a great niece or great nephew should not be treated as relatives for section 47 of the Minister's Rules.

That means for complying with the Family Assistance Law, a great niece or a great nephew is not considered a relative of the Family Day Care educator when ensuring that a Family Day Care educator is complying with the legal requirements to make sure that less than 50 per cent of children in care are relatives.

You must be aware that there are other provisions in the Family Assistance Law that limit eligibility to Child Care Subsidy or Additional Child Care Subsidy where care is provided within a family.

Please note that child care that does not attract a genuine legal liability to pay fees is not child care for which anyone is eligible for Child Care Subsidy or Additional Child Care Subsidy.

Similarly, care provided by an educator to a child for whom they have legal responsibility is also not care for which anyone is eligible for Child Care Subsidy or Additional Child Care Subsidy.

It is very important to understand that Child Care Subsidy is designed to help families with genuine costs of commercial child care provided by a business, rather than for child care provided by relatives within their own family.

How do absences impact on session reports and compliance with the Family Day Care educator "less than 50% related children" requirement?

If a child (related or non-related) is enrolled in the service, but is unable to attend the session of care because of an allowable absence, the child should be:

  • recorded as absent in the Child Care Subsidy fortnight sessions reports
  • considered as having been "in care" for the purpose of calculating the proportion of care provided by the Family Day Care educator in that Child Care Subsidy fortnight.

Are full-time grandparent carers entitled to access subsidised child care?

Being the principal carer of your grandchildren means that you look after them for at least 65 per cent of the time and you have substantial autonomy for the day-to-day decisions about the child's care, welfare and development.

Grandparents on income support, who are the principal carers for their grandchildren, have access to subsidised care through Additional Child Care Subsidy (grandparent). The subsidy is equal to 100 per cent of the actual fee charged up to 120 per cent of the relevant hourly rate cap, for up to 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight.

Grandparents who are the principal carer and who are not on income support are exempt from the activity test (and able to access up to 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight). However, their subsidy percentage is determined by their income.

What if my child is looked after by a grandparent during the day but lives with me?

To be eligible for the Additional Child Care Subsidy (grandparent) payment, the grandparent needs to be the principal carer of the child and receive income support. This means having at least 65 per cent of the daily care of the child and being responsible for day-to-day decisions about the child's wellbeing.

The Child Care Subsidy is for care delivered by approved services, not informal care provided by family members.

What if I am a sole parent?

If you are a sole parent, your Child Care Subsidy is assessed on your estimated annual income and your level of approved activity.

If you pay the fees on your own, then your subsidy is based on your income estimate and hours of activity. If you have a shared custody arrangement and you share the child care fees, then each of you are assessed separately and both of you can claim up to your fortnightly limit of hours. It is expected that you would only use the hours of subsidised care between you that you need, not the combined total of your separate assessments. It would be best to talk to the Department of Human Services about child support payments.

I'm currently receiving a sole parent payment, which increases my percentage. Will that be the same?

Your Child Care Subsidy percentage is determined by your income estimate.

How do hourly rate caps work?

If your service charges a daily fee, the hourly rate is determined by dividing the daily fee by the hours the service operates. Your service tells us their standard session fees and how long the session is, and we use the hourly rate cap to help us calculate how much to pay.

Is the rate cap the same for standard and non-standards hours?

Yes. The hourly rate cap applies to all hours of child care.

Why is Family Day Care hourly rate allowance different to Long Day Care?

The hourly rate cap varies across service types to reflect differences in fees charged and operating costs.

Do the hourly rate caps get indexed?

Yes, the hourly rate caps may be subject to adjustment through indexation in subsequent years.

Are the maximum hours of subsidy per child or per family?

The maximum hours of subsidy are per child.

Are there any changes to the immunisation requirements?

No. The immunisation requirements continue to apply.

What happened with the Nanny Pilot Programme and In Home Care?

The new arrangements reset the current In Home Care (IHC) program, and replaced the Nanny Pilot Programme, with IHC Support Agencies, which service each state and territory to distribute places to Child Care Subsidy approved services.

The revised In Home Care program is delivered through a brokerage model of support agencies that advocate for families, particularly those with complex and challenging circumstances, and help them find care that meets their needs. Support agencies work with families to regularly review their continued need for In Home Care and, where appropriate, help them find suitable alternatives.

What if I'm an Australian resident working or studying overseas?

If you are temporarily absent from Australia, you have an exemption from meeting the activity test for a period of up to six weeks. You are entitled to 100 hours of subsidised child care per fortnight during this period.

There is provision to extend the six-week period for individuals who are members of the Australian Defence Force or Australian Federal Police and who are deployed overseas, assisted by the Medical Treatment Overseas Program, or unable to return to Australia for a specified reason (such as a serious accident or natural disaster).

The percentage of subsidy you may be entitled to is based on your estimated combined annual family income (for the financial year 2018-19).

Are New Zealanders living in Australia eligible?

If you're a New Zealander living in Australia, you may be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy if you (or your partner) meet the residency requirements. Check your residency status on the Department of Human Services website at http://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/enablers/residence-descriptions.

Will there be additional invoicing functionality?

Some third party software providers have already made enhancements to their software products to provide you with additional invoicing functionality. In response to your feedback, the Government is also examining enhancements to the Child Care Subsidy System that will provide further session information back to Family Day Care Services through their software products.

The Department of Education and Training are in constant contact with software providers, including those who support Family Day Care Services and their educators. While there were some initial transitional challenges, all third party software products are operating appropriately.

Is parental leave considered an activity?

If you undertake paid work, and paid or unpaid parental leave is a condition of your employment, then this is considered to be part of your paid work. The hours of activity will be the same as what they were immediately prior to you commencing parental leave. So, if you were working full time then you are still considered to be a full time employee while you are on parental leave.

There is no time limit on the amount of time you can be on unpaid parental leave but there is an expectation that you will be returning to work at some point as a condition of your employment.

What hours do I put in the estimator to allow for parental leave?

Put the hours you were working right before you commenced your parental leave.

How is the Child Care Subsidy paid?

The Child Care Subsidy is paid directly to your child care service fortnightly, based on the attendance records (session reports) the service submits. You pay any difference between the actual fee you are charged and the Child Care Subsidy that is paid on your behalf.

When do we pay the centre for hours the Child Care Subsidy doesn't cover?

You will need to discuss this with your child care provider.

How can I estimate how much Child Care Subsidy I may be entitled to?

You can estimate what your Child Care Subsidy may be by using the Department of Human Services Payment and Service Finder.

Why is 5 per cent of the subsidy withheld?

Because some families are unable to estimate their income accurately, 5 per cent of your weekly Child Care Subsidy entitlement is withheld. Following reconciliation, if you haven't received enough Child Care Subsidy based on your adjusted taxable income, you will receive a lump sum payment. If you have been paid too much Child Care Subsidy, you will have a debt to repay.

If I over-estimate my income and receive less subsidy than I am entitled to, will I receive a lump sum payment?

Your Child Care Subsidy percentage is based on your estimated combined annual family income. Your actual subsidy entitlement will be worked out at end of year reconciliation when your actual adjusted taxable income is known. The easiest way to estimate your income is to base it on your previous year's tax return. Because some families are unable to estimate their income accurately, 5 per cent of your weekly Child Care Subsidy entitlement is withheld. Following reconciliation, if you haven't received enough Child Care Subsidy based on your adjusted taxable income you will receive a lump sum payment; if you have been paid too much Child Care Subsidy, you will have a debt to repay.

If I want to get my subsidy at the end of the year, can you withhold 100 per cent of my entitlement so I receive a lump sum payment?

No, this option is not available under the child care package.

If you are uncertain about your income estimate, you are encouraged to consider making a claim for Child Care Subsidy. Your Child Care Subsidy percentage is based on your estimated combined annual family income. Your actual subsidy entitlement will be worked out through an end-of-year reconciliation when your actual adjusted taxable income is known.

The easiest way to estimate your income is to base it on your previous year's tax return as well as any expected pay rises. Because some families are unable to estimate their income accurately, 5 per cent of your weekly Child Care Subsidy entitlement is withheld. Following reconciliation, if you haven't received enough Child Care Subsidy based on your adjusted taxable income you will receive a lump sum payment. If you have been paid too much Child Care Subsidy, you will have a debt to repay.

Is the Child Care Subsidy paid on actual attendance or a session of care?

The subsidy is calculated based on the reported hours in a session of care. The reporting of actual attendance data is not required to calculate parents' entitlement.

If a centre chooses to open longer than 12 hours (for example 14 hours) and the parent has an arrangement for care for more than 12 hours, can they split sessions?

A session of care can be of any length up to, but not exceeding, 12 hours. Where a parent is liable to pay for more than 12 hours of continuous care, this must be submitted as two or more sessions of care.

Do I have to charge my families an hourly fee or a session fee?

Although there is an hourly rate cap for Child Care Subsidy, this does not mean child care providers need to charge parents by the hour. Providers can charge parents for a session of care or use an hourly rate – this is a business decision for providers.

When submitting session reports, providers that charge by the session can enter the session fee and session start/end times, and the hourly session fee will be automatically calculated (session fee divided by session hours). Alternatively, providers who charge by the hour can enter an hourly rate, along with session start/end times. Either way, Child Care Subsidy will continue to be calculated based on all the hours in a session of care.

When will payments be made?

Providers can submit session reports at any time, using their third party software or the Provider Entry Point. Receipt of each report will be acknowledged.

Payment will be processed each Monday morning for sessions of care that occurred in the previous week (or earlier) and which have been reported before 9pm on the Sunday evening. A session report for a child can be submitted and then varied during the week before payment processing if necessary. For example, sessions of care on Monday through to Wednesday could be reported on Wednesday evening and sessions of care on Thursday and Friday could be added on Friday evening, however, payments related to sessions for all five days would be processed on the following Monday morning.

Session report received:

Entitlement calculated:

Before 9pm on Sunday, for care provided up to and including that Sunday

The following Monday morning

After 9pm on Sunday, for care provided up to and including that Sunday

Overnight

If a session report is varied (up until 28 days after the start of the week to which the report relates), payment adjustments will be processed and paid when the variation is submitted.

Once a session report has been processed, the determination of entitlement will be available through the provider's third party software or the Provider Entry Point and the payment advice will be issued.

Payments are generally be made to the provider's nominated bank account. In limited circumstances, a payment may be made directly to the parent. For example, if a provider reports initial sessions of care before the parent has lodged their Child Care Subsidy claim, the payment for those sessions will go to the parent once their claim has been granted.

When subsidy may be paid directly to parents

While Child Care Subsidy/Additional Child Care Subsidy is generally paid to providers to pass on to parents as a fee reduction, it may need to be paid directly to parents in some specific scenarios, particularly where there is a change in circumstances after session reports have been submitted.

Parents will also be paid directly when a provider has submitted session reports before the parent has finalised their claim for the child. In these scenarios, the enrolment status will be 'pending eligibility', meaning session reports can be submitted but will not be processed. Once the parent's claim for the child is finalised, these session reports will be processed and any resulting payment will be made directly to the parent.

Parents will also be paid directly if they report a change in circumstances that affects their entitlement for sessions of care for which subsidy has already been paid (for example, a retrospective change to a parent's hours of recognised activity). In addition, any amount owing to a parent following the end of year reconciliation process will continue to be paid directly to the parent.

In all cases where a payment is made directly to the parent, the parent will be able to see a record of this payment through Centrelink Online or the Express Plus mobile app.

Is the preschool exemption applied to all parents who are entitled to it?

Yes. Entitlement to the preschool exemption is applied to parents' CCSS records based on details provided in their Child Care Subsidy claim (or subsequent update). As the preschool exemption only applies to the preschool aged child/ren in the family, this entitlement is added to the parent record at the individual child level if:

1. the parent's activity test result is 0 or 24, and

2. the child's primary school start date is the next year (i.e. the child is a 'preschool aged child').

I believe a parent is entitled to the preschool exemption – why are their 'eligible hours' still 0 or 24?

Where a parent is entitled to the preschool exemption for a child (based on claim details above), their 'eligible hours' will show as either 0 or 24 in third party software and the Provider Entry Point (PEP).

This is because the 36 hours of subsidy available under the preschool exemption only apply in specific circumstances (see this fact sheet for detail). The parent's correct hours of entitlement will continue to be either 0 or 24 hours for:

  • their non-preschool aged children, and
  • for their preschool aged child when the session of care provided by a centre based day care service does not include an early educational program (as indicated by the session report), or care is provided by another type of service.

This means the hours of Child Care Subsidy per fortnight for parents who are entitled to the preschool exemption is as follows:

 

Activity test result

for all children and care types

Preschool exemption subsidised hours

when preschool aged child attends preschool program in CBDC

Income is $66,958 or less

24

36*

Income is more than $66,958

0

36*

* The 24 hour entitlement increases to 36 where preschool exemption criteria are met (i.e. the 36 hours is not in addition to the 24 hours).

How do I know if a parent is entitled to the preschool exemption for a child?

Services can ask parents what Centrelink advised them following their claim assessment. Parents who are entitled to the preschool exemption will have received a letter from Centrelink indicating their 'eligible hours' are 0 or 24 but that they are entitled to 36 hours per fortnight for their preschool aged child/ren if they attend an early education program at a centre based day care service.

In the longer term, we are also exploring a system enhancement so that parents' preschool exemption entitlement is displayed in third party software and the PEP.

Is my child eligible for the subsidy if they attend preschool?

If you don't meet the activity test and you have a preschool aged child attending preschool in a centre based day care service you would be eligible for the first step of the activity test (36 hours of subsidised care per fortnight). The exemption only applies for the period of the preschool program and only for the preschool aged child.

Is community-based preschool subsidised?

This will depend on where the kindergarten program is being delivered. For example, if it is a component of the early education and care offered at a centre based day care centre, then families are eligible for the Child Care Subsidy. However, if the service primarily provides only a preschool or kindergarten program (like a standalone preschool), then this program will not attract the Child Care Subsidy.

How does the Victorian Government 'kindergarten per capita funding' affect the Child Care Subsidy fee reduction requirement?

Subclause 2(2) of Schedule 2 of the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Jobs for Families Child Care Package) Act 2017 defines the fee used to calculate Child Care Subsidy (the hourly session fee) as:

  • the amount the parent is liable to pay for the session of care
  • divided by the number of hours in the session
  • reduced by the hourly rate of any other subsidy (or reimbursement fringe benefit) the parent benefits from for that session.

The requirement to reduce the hourly rate where a parent also benefits from another subsidy for a session of care applies only where the other subsidy is paid to the provider specifically to reduce the fee the parent pays for the session of care. When a parent benefits from another subsidy in relation to a session of care, providers need to reduce the fee charged and reported to ensure the parent's Child Care Subsidy entitlement is calculated as required by the legislation–based on the amount the parent is genuinely liable to pay for a session of care.

Based on the description in the Kindergarten Funding Guide issued by the Victorian Government, the Australian Government's understanding is that 'kindergarten per capita funding' is not intended to directly reduce parent's fee liability. Therefore, providers in receipt of this funding would not be required to reduce fees reported in their session reports to account for this funding.

Why do different service types have different rates?

The hourly rate cap varies across service types to reflect differences in fees charged and operating costs.

What happens if I use more than one child care service type?

You are able to elect how many of your hours go to which approved service. Approved services then invoice you for your contribution to the cost of care.

My child care centre charges a daily rate. How do I work out the hourly rate?

Your service tells us their standard session fees and how long the session is, and we use the hourly rate cap to help us calculate how much to pay. For example, if your service is open for 11 hours and charges $115.50 per day then the hourly rate is $10.50 ($115.50 divided by 11).

Are child care hours the hours your child is in care, or the hours the service is open?

The Child Care Subsidy is calculated on the hourly fee you are charged. If your centre charges by the day, it will be for a number of hours in that day/session. You need to find out from your centre the number of hours in the session they charge you for.

I am a Family Day Care educator. Do I have to change my hourly rate?

No. As a Family Day Care educator, your service should set fees. The hourly rate cap for Family Day Care is $10.90 per hour. This is the maximum amount that the Government will subsidise, it is not the amount that services must charge.

I run a network of Family Day Care centres. Do I claim the subsidy on behalf of my educators?

Yes, the Child Care Subsidy is paid directly to approved Family Day Care providers in arrears, based on attendance records (session reports) the service submits. Family Day Care providers submit session reports generally within 14 days after the end of the week when care was provided, but they are able to submit for payment processing at any time.

Who makes sure services are doing the right thing?

The Department of Education and Training has a sophisticated and broad ranging monitoring and enforcement program to protect the integrity of child care payments and promote compliant behaviour by providers with the Family Assistance Law. Child safety or education concerns can be reported to www.acecqa.gov.au. Fraud can be reported via the tip off line on 1800 664 231.

What happens if a service charges more than the hourly rate cap?

Fee charging practices are commercial decisions made by child care providers and are not a matter regulated by the Family Assistance Law.

My Family Day Care service charges $8.85 per hour for an eight-hour day. Can they increase it to the $10.90 rate cap?

Individual child care services continue to set their own fees. However, the hourly rate caps are designed to help to put downward pressure on fee growth in the future, thereby supporting affordability for parents.

The Government recognises the cost of early learning and child care differs across the range of services provided and geographical locations. This is one of the reasons why the Child Care Subsidy is based on the proportion of the actual fee paid up to a maximum hourly rate cap. This approach is able to better accommodate geographic price differences as fee assistance is more closely linked to parents' actual child care costs rather than a benchmark price, which may not necessarily reflect their actual costs.

Can I pay only for the hours I use?

Services have the flexibility to offer shorter sessions of care to cater for situations like this. Your fees are based on the length of the sessions you agree with your child care service.

What is the definition of a 'Session of care'?

The Child Care Subsidy (What Constitutes a Session of Care) Determination 2018 provides the definition of a session of care under Family Assistance Law – that is, a session that can attract Child Care Subsidy.

In short, a session of care is the period of time for which a provider charges a fee for providing child care, that the parent is genuinely liable to pay (whether or not the parent is entitled to Child Care Subsidy for the session).

The maximum session length is 12 hours. However, it is important to note that, while providers can offer sessions of any length up to this maximum, 12 hours should not in any way be seen as a 'standard' session length. Providers should determine session lengths that are appropriate to the needs and circumstances of families and their business.

What are the requirements for sessions of before and after school care?

Specific requirements that previously applied to sessions of before and after school care have not been included in the new Determination. However, it is important to note that section 8 of the Child Care Subsidy Minister's Rules establishes that there is no Child Care Subsidy eligibility for a session of care where the child attends school during any part of the session.

For example, if a child finishes school at 3.15 pm, their parent would not be eligible for Child Care Subsidy for a session that starts at 3.00 pm. Start times for before school sessions and end times for after school sessions should reflect realistic periods of care based on families' needs.

When can a session report be submitted for payment?

Providers are required to give accurate and complete information in weekly session reports. As session reports will need to include children's actual attendance times (from January 2019), providers will not be able to submit an 'accurate and complete' session report for a child until the child has been collected from their last day of care for the week.

Where providers want to avoid a staff member having to stay back on a Friday evening to submit session reports once the last child has been collected, there are several options:

  • An 'unattended mode' allows session reports entered by the relevant person during business hours to be auto-submitted after hours, once all automated attendance data is received via a kiosk. This was developed in response to feedback from software providers that this was needed to accommodate current business practice. [Note - this option is unavailable where a service enters actual attendance data manually]
  • Providers can submit reports for all children who have been collected by the time the session reports are submitted, and submit the session reports for the remaining children on the following Monday.
  • Alternatively, providers can submit all children's session reports for the week on the following Monday. This may mean the provider receives payment a day later in the week, however, they can still receive payments weekly.

If, in exceptional circumstances, a provider is unable to give accurate and complete information about a child's drop-off or pick-up time (e.g. because a parent forgot to sign their child in/out), the provider may:

  • enter the session start/end time in lieu of that child's actual attendance time, and
  • correct the report as soon as practical (noting up to 28 days timeframe to vary session report).

Can I amend a session report?

Session reports must still be submitted within 14 days after the end of the week when care was provided – this has not changed under the child care package.

If a provider realises a session report was incorrect, or changed since it was submitted, the provider must vary the session report up until 28 days after the start of the week to which the report relates.

Alternatively, if a session report should not have been submitted at all (for example, because no care was provided to a child in that week), the provider must withdraw the report. A withdrawn session report should not be resubmitted. If a report is still required but the original is not correct, the provider must vary the report up until 28 days after the start of the week to which the report relates.

If a report is varied or withdrawn after the 28 day limit, it is not automatically processed and is held for manual checking by the department. In some cases, this may lead to delays to payments to the provider.

To avoid any payment delays, please ensure that any essential changes to session reports are lodged within the 28 day limit and only submit by exception after that timeframe.

Why are providers being asked to report children's actual attendance times?

Approved providers are required to keep attendance records for each child, including the time they arrive and depart the service each day. Under the child care package, providers will be required to include this information in statements of entitlements to families and session reports to the Australian Government.

While Child Care Subsidy will generally be paid directly to providers to pass on to parents by fee reduction, the entitlement is calculated and paid on behalf of parents. On this basis, the Government is also committed to ensuring parents have greater transparency of their child care usage, including the hours of child care they are charged for and the hours of care they actually use. The increase in available information is intended to help parents understand the relationship between the fees they are charged, the amount of subsidy paid to the provider on their behalf, and their out of pocket expenses. This, in turn, is important in ensuring increased transparency, accountability and payment integrity of the Child Care Subsidy.

From 14 January 2019, the first full Child Care Subsidy fortnight in 2019, session reports are required to record actual attendance in and out times (except for absences).

Those providers already using an electronic solution for sign-in sign-out purposes should start providing this information in session reports.

The reporting of actual attendance data is not required to calculate parents' Child Care Subsidy entitlement. Child Care Subsidy will be calculated based on the reported hours in a session of care.

When are session reports processed?

You can submit session reports at any time, using your third party software or the Provider Entry Point (PEP) and receipt of each report will be acknowledged.

Child Care Subsidy is always paid in arrears, generally in the week following the week in which care took place, subject to the relevant session reports having been submitted.

Payments are processed at 9 am each Monday morning for sessions of care that occurred in the previous week, as long as they are reported before 9 pm on the Sunday evening. More than one session report may be submitted during the week – all reported sessions will be held for processing on Monday morning.

Session reports for the previous week of care submitted after the Sunday 9 pm deadline are processed and paid as they are submitted (but after the Monday morning weekly processing has been completed).

A session report must contain at least one session of care for a week, recorded as either attendance or an absence.

For guidance about the information that must be submitted in session reports, you should refer to Chapter 6 of the Child Care Provider Handbook at www.education.gov.au/child-care-provider-handbook/1-session-reports-are-submitted-provider.

If you need assistance with using your third party software program to submit, vary or withdraw session reports, you need to refer to your software provider directly for assistance with using their product.

The Department of Education and Training has published task cards describing how to submit, vary and withdraw session reports in the PEP, for those providers who are using the PEP. The task cards are available at www.education.gov.au/new-child-care-package-information-resources-providers.

If you use third party software, you should not also use PEP to submit or vary or withdraw session reports. Session reports and other changes submitted via PEP may not be visible through third party software and can also result in data synchronisation issues in your third party software.

What if I get errors submitting a session report?

If you are experiencing errors when attempting to submit session reports, you need to talk directly with your software provider to get assistance with using your third party software program. For more information on what a session report must contain, please refer to Chapter 6: Payments of the Child Care Provider Handbook at www.education.gov.au/child-care-provider-handbook/1-session-reports-are-submitted-provider.

Why does the department send compliance notifications to providers?

The department takes a risk based approach to compliance and a key component of the new child care package compliance framework is intended to make sure child care payments are:

  • being properly administered by providers and services and
  • directed to assist eligible families meet the real cost of genuine child care.

The department's focus is on ensuring that providers and families comply with the Family Assistance Law, making sure that the only people receiving Child Care Subsidy are the ones entitled to it.

A range of information and resources are available at www.education.gov.au .

The new Child Care Subsidy System has been designed to support compliance with the Family Assistance Law. Child Care Subsidy System notifications alert providers that possible non-compliance has been detected. These notifications assist providers to remedy the detected issue and maintain compliance with their obligations. The provider can also use these notices as a learning tool, so that mistakes can be corrected before they become serious non-compliance issues.

Have you received a compliance notification since 2 July 2018?

Compliance notifications are sent to providers via the Child Care Subsidy System when a potential breach, e.g. a missed timeframe for submitting a session report, is identified. If a provider receives a compliance notification, they should take the appropriate action to address the issue to ensure they are compliant with their obligations.

Notifications about potential breaches are monitored by the department, but do not necessarily result in the department taking immediate compliance action. Compliance notifications form part of the department's ongoing monitoring processes and trend analysis.

The department will take compliance action when deemed necessary.

What if the cause of the notification was unavoidable?

If a compliance notification is generated due to third party software problem, the department will take this into account. In these circumstances, the department in the future may require further information from you regarding the specific occurrence.

If you experience third party software issues that might cause a compliance notification to be issued, then you should hold onto the information that shows that the cause was unavoidable.

Where can I see statements of entitlement?

In your third party software product. Information and how the statement is displayed may differ depending on the product/s you use. Please refer to your software provider directly for assistance with using their product.

Where do I send enquiries about families' entitlements?

Families who have queries about their entitlements should check their Centrelink online account through myGov or contact Centrelink.