Subsidized child care helps reduce the financial burden for Australian families. What is it exactly? Who is eligible? How can you claim it?
Introduction to Subsidized Child Care
Child care is an important segment of a child’s quality of life. Not only does it keep children safe and healthy, but also supports the development and strengthening of important social, emotional and communication skills. However, child care isn’t affordable for many. The Australian government can help pay for the costs of child care. Below, we’re going to focus on subsidized child care and how it works.
What is the Child Care Subsidy?
The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) is a government subsidy focused on offering several levels of financial assistance to help cover the costs of childcare for parents in Australia. In fact, CCS is the primary way through which the Australian government assists families to cover the costs of childcare. Back in 2018, Child Care Subsidy replaced the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate as a simpler, easier, and more affordable program for low- and middle-income families.
How does Child Care Subsidy work?
A subsidy is a form of financial aid or support the government extends to an economic sector, a business or family, to keep the price of a commodity or service low. In this case, the Australian government subsidizes the costs of child care, i.e. service.
Since we’re talking about the subsidy, it’s paramount to remember the government does not pay the total costs of CCS, only a portion. The main objective here is to ease the financial burden on low- to middle-income parents or caregivers. Considering it’s a subsidy to support paying for child care, the payments are made directly to the child care provider, not to an individual’s account. This is done to reduce your fees.
Who is eligible for Child Care Subsidy?
Subsidized child care benefits many families across Australia, but to get access to this program, you need to meet certain requirements, specified by Services Australia. To be eligible for CCS, you or your partner need to meet the following criteria:
- Meet the residency rules
- Being liable for fees for care provided at an approved child care service
- Care for a child at least two nights per fortnight or have 14% of care
Besides the above-mentioned requirements, you also need to ensure your child meets certain criteria such as immunization requirements and not be attending secondary school unless an exemption applies such as:
- The child is 13 or younger
- 14-18 years old with a disability
Keep in mind that if your child is attending secondary school, regardless of the exemption, you need to prove he/she needs supervision. For example, if your child has some form of disability, you also need to include evidence into the application for subsidized child care.
What residency rules do I need to meet?
Meeting residency rules is one of the most crucial requirements for parents who want access to subsidized child care. Residency rules mean you or your partner need to have Australian citizenship or:
- Permanent visa
- A certain type of temporary visa such as a Temporary Protection visa or Partner Provisional visa
- Special category visa
How much subsidy can I get?
The “one size fits all” rule doesn’t apply here. There is no fixed amount of subsidy that works for all applicants. Several factors play a role in how much subsidy you’re eligible for, such as:
- Combined family income – helps determine the percentage of CCS to which you are entitled.
- Hours of activity performed by you and your partner – indicates how much a family contributes to the economy of Australia through both paid and unpaid activity. They take the parent with the lowest numbers per fortnight into account when calculating the activity. Activity refers to paid work, all types of work across jobs/employers, volunteering, work experience, authorized leave, unpaid work in a family business, looking for work, etc.
- Hourly rate cap according to the type of approved child care
You can get an estimate here, but keep in mind the only way to learn about the specific amount of subsidy is to wait for the government’s feedback.
What are the immunisation requirements?
Immunisation requirements indicate your child needs to be vaccinated if you want to apply for CCS or even if you’re looking for Family Tax Benefit Part A. You will receive an Immunisation History Statement from the AIR (Australian Immunisation Register) once your child is ‘Up to date’ with their immunisations.
Upon applying, the info you provide is checked. For that reason, you’ll need to provide the child’s Medicare number and Individual Customer Reference Number (CRN). Parents whose children aren’t eligible for Medicare should inform the government once they complete their claim.
Meeting immunisation rules is also important if you want to retain subsidy. According to the government website, if the child stops meeting this requirement, the subsidy will stop unless you meet them again within 63 days. There are also many other benefits that come from meeting Immunisation requirements.
How to claim subsidized child care?
Before you even start the process to claim subsidized child care (or CCS), you need to go through eligibility criteria. Upon confirming you, your partner and your children meet all the requirements; you can begin with your claim. Today you can do pretty much everything online. You’ll need a myGov account linked with Centrelink (sign in or sign up). Make sure you have all documents you need for the CCS claim. When you have everything ready for your claim, log in to myGov and Centrelink, go to Payments and Claims in the menu, head to Claims, click the Make a Claim, and proceed to Families. Answer the questions, complete your claim, and submit. On the same platform, you can track the status of your claim.
When your child starts care in an approved child care service, the service will ask for your CRN’s (Customer Reference Numbers for parent AND child) from Centrelink and enter these numbers, along with your enrolment information into their CCMS (Child Care Management System) Software. Once your child starts attending, the child care provider will send you a statement for the gap, usually with CCS applied to your account already, assumed you have applied, it is approved and processed by Centrelink.
Can I get additional help?
Some families can, actually. Extra support comes in the form of an Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) to which you can apply if you’re experiencing temporary financial problems, transitioning to work, or if you’re a grandparent.
Summary of Subsidized Child Care
Subsidized child care helps reduce the financial burden for low- and middle-income families who need to pay for child care. The new Child Care Subsidy program was implemented in 2018, and it’s simpler and more convenient than its predecessors. However, you need to meet certain criteria to be eligible. The amount of subsidy depends on several factors that determine how much parents participate in the economy of Australia but also their financial status to understand how much help they need.