By Emma Thomas
Having your child start at an Early Learning Centre is a big deal! While you’re looking at centres, working out days and thinking about what learning environment will be best for you little one, there is one other small thing you should consider – the Child Care Subsidy! The Child Care Subsidy can be confusing and overwhelming so we want to provide you with all the information you need, regardless of if you’re new to the system or you’ve already had children go through.
These are some of the most common questions that we receive from families.
What is the Child Care Subsidy?
The Child Care Subsidy is a means tested payment from the federal government to help families with the cost of child care. The amount you receive is based on your income and activity hours (work, volunteering, other approved activities) and your specific family circumstances. Australian citizens (and specific visa holders) are eligible for CCS payments.
There are two parts to the Child Care Subsidy (CCS):
- Subsidy Percentage – For example, 85% (The percentage of care that will be paid for by Services Australia/Centrelink)
- Approved Hours Per Fortnight – For example, 100 hours per fortnight. (The number of hours care to which that subsidy percentage applies)
When should I apply for CCS?
Today (or even better, yesterday)! It is best to apply as soon as possible as it can take 6-8 weeks for applications to be processed. Your child can start at a centre before your CCS comes through, however you will have to pay full fees.
We actually recommend starting to apply for CCS while still looking at centres, this gives you a head start on the application process.
How do I apply?
Most families are able to complete the process using Centrelink online. If you have any issues you will need to contact Centrelink and discuss with them.
Applying for Child Care Subsidy
- Sign into your MyGov Account and go to Centrelink.
- From the menu select ‘Payment and Claims’, ‘Claims’ and then ‘Make a claim’.
- Under ‘Families’ select ‘get started’.
- Answer all the questions.
- Press submit.
Find out more – https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/how-to-claim-child-care-subsidy?context=41186
How much will it actually cost?
This depends on the daily fee of the centre you choose and how much CCS you are entitled to. The Government makes CCS payments directly to the centres, and then families are billed for the gap payment. Once your CCS amount is confirmed we will be able to tell you what your ongoing costs will be.
You can use a Child Care Subsidy Calculator to give you an idea of how much CCS you will receive and what your costs are likely to be.
What’s my hourly rate?
When completing the Centrelink application you will be asked what the ‘hourly fee’ is for your chosen centre. You will know the daily fee and will be able to work this out.
E.g. Daily fee / number of hours = hourly rate
Centrelink sets a cap of $12.31 per hour on the Child Care Subsidy, if your centre has a higher hourly rate than this your gap payment will be slightly larger.
Our Tops Tips
- Call Centrelink at busy times of day! If other families are busy making dinner and putting their children to bed, then you will be more likely to get through quickly.
- The Centrelink helpline is open 8:00am-8:00pm Monday to Friday. Ph. 136 150.
- It is very important to let Centrelink know about any changes in your family. This includes changes to income, activity level or your family situation. If Centrelink does not have the correct details you may be over or unpaid.
- There is a 5% withholding to reduce the risk of overpayment. You will receive any additional money owed at the end of the financial year when the payments are balanced.
- You can actually increase the amount that Centrelink withholds and use this as a savings strategy!
- Centrelink works in fortnights – this can be really easy to get mixed up on. Your activity level and the number of hours of care you are entitled to are both calculated fortnightly.