CCS to receive multiple amendments in new Bill as Dan Tehan aims to simplify system

by Jason Roberts

September 18, 2019

The Federal Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, has introduced a new Bill to the Parliament of Australia that aims to address feedback received from families and the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector about the usability and manageability of certain areas of the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) package legislation.

 

The Bill, called the Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Building on the Child Care Package) Bill 2019, will seek to address unintended consequences resulting from the implementation of the CCS in July 2018, make some policy refinements and also a number of clarifying and technical amendments. 

 

Commenting on the changes in Mr Tehan noted “We have listened to feedback from parents and providers and the amendments introduced today will make the subsidy operate more efficiently.”

 

Feedback has been provided to the Minister through multiple channels, one of which was through a session at the Australian Childcare Alliance Victoria’s Annual conference in August 2019. During the conference, particular delegates noted concern around families receiving back payments and services having to chase debt, 8 week enrolment lapse rule being too short and lack of clarity around absence definition on the first and last days of care.

 

Notably, Mr Tehan’s Bill addresses two of these three key points of feedback, namely, the 8 week rule, which has been extended to 14 weeks, and absence definition clarity which has been sharpened up. In reference to the provider’s debt position, the core premise that the provider is responsible remains and in some instances been re-emphasised. 

 

Other areas of notable change arising from the Bill are the inclusion of In Home Care in the CCS and a relaxing of the Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) (Child wellbeing) enrolment limits by removing the 50 per cent rule, which will both serve families with more complex needs or vulnerable families more effectively. 

 

A summary of the key changes that have been made include the following:

 

  • Extending the 8 week enrolment lapse rule to 14 weeks to avoid re-enrolment for children returning to care after 8 weeks.

 

  • In Home Care will going forward be included within the CCS legislation with subsidy available to parents and providers. 

 

  • ACCS (Child wellbeing) certificates will no longer be limited to 50 per cent of all children attending the service, with the “50 per cent rule” being scrapped.

 

  • It is now a requirement that providers ensure that all educators have a current “working with children check” relevant to their state or territory context, as well as their existing responsibility to inform the Minister of the details of working with children cards/checks. 

 

  • Providers who make a mistake that leads to an overpayment of CCS to a family or are deemed to be responsible for an overpayment post a review are liable for the debt to the Commonwealth, not the family.

 

With regards the implementation of the new rules a phased approach will be adopted with some to take effect in the short term once the Bill has been passed and received Royal Assent, some on 13 January 2020 and some on 13 July 2020. 

 

Please see below for a more detailed summary of the amendments and an indication of when they will be implemented. 

 

Part 1: Amendments relating to child care subsidies

 

Below is a summary of the key areas of change to the CCS:

 

  • Refining absence provisions in particular to ensure that CCS is not paid in certain circumstances where absence recognition is ambiguous – To be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent

 

  • Allowing certain third party payments, usually from State or Territory Governments, to be excluded from the calculation of CCS entitlements to ensure receiving families are not financially disadvantaged – To be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent

 

  • Ensuring that a family will still receive CCS in circumstances where a provider is at fault from providing enrolment reports and/or attendances outside the stipulated time frames – To be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent

 

  • Ensuring that a families bank details and TFN are provided at the time a CCS claim is made and not within 28 days after the claim is made which is the current rule – To be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent

 

  • Extending the 8 week enrolment lapse rule to 14 weeks to avoid re-enrolment for children returning to care after 8 weeks – To be implemented 13 January 2020

 

Below is a summary of the key areas of change to the ACCS:

 

  • ACCS (Grandparent) eligibility criteria is being broadened to include ABSTUDY payments – To be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent

 

  • ACCS (Child wellbeing) notice requirements to “appropriate State or Territory bodies” is being clarified to “appropriate State or Territory support agencies” – To be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent

 

  • ACCS (Child wellbeing) eligibility criteria requirements around certification is clarified to remove inconsistencies in the legislation – To be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent

 

  • ACCS (Child wellbeing) certificates will now not be limited to 50 per cent of all children attending the service with the “50 per cent rule” being scrapped – To be implemented 13 July 2020

 

Below is a summary of the key areas of change related to In Home Care all of which will be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent:

 

  • In Home Care will going forward be included within the CCS legislation with subsidy available to parents and providers. 

 

  • In Home Care eligibility criteria is clarified with an understanding that recipients are likely to have complex and / or extensive additional needs.

 

  • In Home Care providers will also need to comply with ratios of educators to children to be eligible.

 

  • An hourly cap has been introduced for In Home Care.

 

Part 2: Amendments relating to ensuring the integrity of the child care subsidy system

 

Below is a summary of the key areas of change with a focus on providers all of which will be implemented post receipt of Royal Assent:

 

  • Voluntary suspensions of a providers service approval will now be extended into the CCS to ensure consistency with the Law and CCS legislation.

 

  • The date of the effect of a providers service approval having previously been a Monday has now been changed to not be limited to a Monday and can be received any day.

 

  • It is now a requirement that providers ensure that all educators have a current “working with children check” as well as their existing responsibility to inform the Minister of details of working with children cards. 

 

  • Providers approvals can be suspended or cancelled if 10 infringement notices are received within a 12 month period. 

 

  • Providers who wish to request a review of a debt raised against it must submit an application within 52 weeks of incurring the debt.

 

  • Providers who make a mistake that leads to an overpayment of CCS to a family or are deemed to be responsible for an overpayment post a review are liable for the debt to the Commonwealth, not the family.

 

Mr Tehan’s office have created a detailed explanatory memorandum to accompany the Bill, which may be read alongside the Bill itself, and Mr Tehan’s speech to Parliament, please see here.  

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