Your child care business provides an important community service. We all remember the panic when ABC Learning went into administration, as parents – many of them working full time – desperately needed to secure continued child care. Because of this, if your child care centre is struggling due to certain circumstances, there may be government help available. The Federal Government offers information and support to child care services, and this includes grants and financial assistance.
Child Care Services Support Programme
This helps child care providers to establish or maintain viable services in areas where it might not otherwise be viable to run a child care service, such as in disadvantaged or regional and remote areas. There are three parts to this:
Establishment and Sustainability Assistance
This applies to mainstream services, to help them set up and/or run their businesses. To qualify, you need to be the only Long Day Care centre in your area, with low utilisation, and providing places for 0-2 year olds. You also need to score a certain amount of eligibility points, which are based on your area, its socio-economic status, and the percentage of places you offer to 0-2 year olds.
Long Day Care Exceptional Circumstances Grant
These are individual, discretionary one-off grants of up to $500,000 (excl. GST), subject to availability. They’re available for child care services experiencing exceptional circumstances, such as "market failure or documented unmet demand", which may result in no formal child care being available.
Budget Based Funding
This programme contributes to the operational costs of around 300 child care and early learning and school aged care services in a limited number of approved locations, which are mainly remote areas and indigenous communities.
Inclusion and Professional Support Program
Child care centres caring for children with additional needs may qualify for Inclusion Support which can be used to hire an extra child care worker to increase the educator-to-child ratio if you have children with "ongoing high support needs". The target groups for this are:
- Children with disability, including children with ongoing high support needs
- Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- Children from a refugee or humanitarian intervention background
- Indigenous children
As well as funding, you can also loan specialist equipment to meet a child’s needs.
Pro bono policy
Individual centres can also create their own pro bono or subsidised policies for disadvantaged children that need assistance. Since most child care centres already operate on very tight margins, you may need community support to do this.
Local businesses may be prepared to sponsor places at your centre for needy children. It may be possible to hold fund-raising activities to try and offset the cost of a place for a struggling family.
Child Care Subsidy
Struggling families should be made aware of the Child Care Benefit (CCB) and Child Care Rebate (CCR) that they may be eligible for.
However, the Federal Government announced changes to this scheme in the recent budget. Over the next five years, it’s investing an extra $3.5 billion in child care assistance. This includes a new Child Care Subsidy from 1 July 2017, that will replace the Child Care Benefit, Child Care Rebate and Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance Programme.
The simplified Child Care Subsidy is a response to "longstanding community frustration" that the current system is complex and difficult for families to navigate.
It will help families meet the cost of care if parents are working or looking for work, studying or training, or doing an activity such as volunteering. Similar to the current Child Care Rebate, it will be based on a percentage of the actual fee paid, up to a maximum hourly fee cap. The level of subsidy will be based on family income.
So don’t despair if families are struggling to pay and you’re struggling as a result – there may be help available.
For more tips on how to stay on top of your finances, download our free ebook ‘Child care services: Getting smart with fee payments’ by clicking the button below.