To inform child protection workers of Commonwealth Government assistance available to foster carers for the payment of child care fees and the process for accessing this assistance. This assistance is used to help offset the cost of child care. Instructions are included for the enrolment and payment of child care fees for children in the CEO's care who are enrolled in an approved child care service.
Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (Communities).
Enrolment into a child care service for a child in the CEO’s care may be considered necessary by Communities for reasons such as:
Decisions regarding whether or not a child in care should attend a child care service should be informed by the use of the assessment tools in the Signs of Safety Assessment and Planning Framework and documented in the case and care plan, with associated costs approved in the funding component in Assist.
Child protection workers must work together with foster carers when considering the need for a child in the CEO’s care to attend a child care service.
The placement of a child in the CEO's care in an approved child care service funded by Communities is a form of assistance for foster carers and should not be seen as an entitlement. Discussions regarding the provision of funding for child care should be planned and negotiated with the foster carer at all times.
Child protection workers must gain the approval of the district director before making any arrangements to enrol a child in an approved child care service. When this decision has to be made outside of a case planning or care planning forum, it should be formalised through the next case or care planning forum.
A letter outlining placement details and other information relevant to the child’s day to day needs should be given to the child care service provider to enable the service to provide safe and appropriate care (child protection workers should use the Child Care Arrangements Letter – available under related resources).
For detailed information regarding enrolment child protection workers should refer to the tip sheets available in related resources.
The fees charged by child care services are not regulated by any statutory authority and therefore can vary significantly between services. To offset the costs of child care, the Commonwealth Government arranges a variety of payments to families.
The two main payment types available to families are the Child Care Benefit (CCB) and the Child Care Rebate (CCR).
From 1 January 2016, immunisation requirements to receive CCB and CCR changed and apply to children and young people under 20 years of age. These changes also affect people who claim Special Child Care Benefit and Grandparent Child Care Benefit.
This new measure will most likely affect a foster carer’s eligibility to these payments where they receive the payment for a child in the CEO's care and that child is not fully immunised, unless he or she is exempt for medical reasons. It is important that child protection workers make sure that all children in the CEO’s care are immunised (unless there is a medical exemption from a doctor or immunisation provider).
Child Care Benefit
The CCB is provided to help with the cost of child care for families who use approved child care service providers. CCB is income tested and subject to other eligibility criterion including a work, training and study test or exemption, and is administered by the Commonwealth Department of Human Services, through local Centrelink service centres.
Foster carers, including approved family carer households who meet the eligibility criterion, are able to claim the CCB. Communities is not eligible for CCB.
The cost of child care can be offset by foster carers enrolling a child in an approved child care service and claiming the CCB. In some situations Communities may support the carer by paying the remaining ‘gap’ fee (this is the net amount payable to a service after the CCB has been deducted, and any CCR paid directly to the child care service).
Applying for the Child Care Benefit (CCB)
When enrolling a child in an approved child care service, foster carers are required to undertake the following steps (where payment has been approved by Communities):
On receipt of the child care invoice, child protection workers must promptly reconcile the invoice and organise payment of the outstanding amount directly to the child care service.
The Government Purchasing Card, for use on client costs less than $5,000, must be used by district offices as the preferred means of expediting payment of child care invoices.
The CCB is given as a percentage rate based on the carer’s family income. There is a limit to the amount of hours for which the CCB can be claimed. These limits are:
A foster carer or guardian who is studying can apply to the Department of Human Services for the Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Child Care Assistance. JET Child Care Assistance payments are made directly to the child care service but a small contribution will still be required toward the cost of care.
Further information can be obtained from the related resource Information Sheet - Child Care Services.
Child Care Rebate (CCR)
The CCR is another form of assistance that helps working families with the cost of child care. The CCR will be automatically assessed when a claim for CCB is lodged for approved child care. The CCR is not income tested but can only be paid where a person is eligible for the CCB, even if assessed at a zero rate. Provided approved child care is being used for work, training, study-related reasons, or the foster carer is eligible for an exemption, the CCR subsidises up to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses for approved child care up to the annual cap of $7,500 per child per year.
Foster carers who are eligible for the CCR must indicate on the form that the CCR be paid directly to the child care service provider. Communities will then fund the gap fee. For carers with existing child care arrangements where the CCR is paid directly to them, the child protection worker should assist the carer to notify the Department of Human Services on 136150 (or online through DHS Self Service if registered) that they would like to change their payment option and have the CCR paid directly to the child care service as a fee reduction. This can be done at any point but only takes effect at the start of the new financial year.
Special Child Care Benefit (SCCB)
The SCCB is available for children where families are experiencing hardship or for children at risk of abuse or neglect where it is considered that the use of child care or increased child care would minimise the risk/s for the child.
Where a child is at risk of abuse or neglect, the child’s situation can sometimes be improved by attending child care or by increasing attendance at child care. In these cases, where the cost of child care to the parents is a barrier, this barrier can be removed by utilising the SCCB. This does not apply to children in the CEO's care, but may apply to children under a protection order (supervision) where families are working to keep children safe at home, or when children are being reunited with family.
There is a provision for SCCB to be used when parents and families are facing exceptional circumstances and where State and Territory welfare authorities direct the parents caring for a child at risk to place the child at a child care service.
The SCCB is available for children at risk of abuse or neglect if:
If these circumstances exist, the child care service can apply a SCCB to a parent, who is registered with the Department of Human Services (local service centre, also known as Centrelink) and is already in receipt of the CCB, where the full child care fee can be covered for up to 13 weeks.
There should always be supporting documentation to support the criteria above and in most instances a letter from the child protection worker is considered sufficient. The 13 week period can be extended, but this extension has to be approved by the Department of Human Services i.e. a child care service can only approve the initial application for up to 13 weeks, not an extension.
The SCCB is not considered appropriate for a child already attending child care full-time, if the cost of care is not an issue for the parent(s).
Grandparent Child Care Benefit (GCCB)
A GCCB is available to grandparents who meet the above requirements for the CCB. In addition, they must receive income support from the Department of Human Services or the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and must be the main provider of the ongoing daily care of the grandchild, and have responsibility for the day to day decisions.
The GCCB is not income level tested and covers the total fee charged by the child care service. Where grandparents are caring for children and these children will be attending child care, grandparents should be encouraged to apply to the Department of Human Services for this benefit.