By Emma Thomas
Confused about the Child Care Subsidy? So I am! And I’ve been working in the early learning sector for 15 years. So I’ve asked Shantel to explain things to us.
“Hi, I’m Shantel and I have worked in the early years learning sector for over a decade. I am Diploma trained and worked on the floor for 7 years starting my career as a trainee, and working my way up to Room Leader and 2IC. While I loved working directly with children, I found my passion lies in supporting families on their journey, from tours to enrolment and starting at the centre.”
I asked Shantel what some of the most common questions she gets from families are. She also shared her ‘top tips’!
What is the Child Care Subsidy?
The child care subsidy is a payment from the federal government to assist with child care fees. It is means tested and dependent on your family circumstances, income and your activity levels. To receive CCS you need to be an Australian citizen or hold a specific visa.
There are two elements of 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 the CCS?
It can take 6-8 weeks to be approved so we recommended applying as soon as possible! You can begin applying for CCS before you have even decided on a centre.
You can wait and apply for CCS once your child has started, however you will have to pay full fees until your subsidy is approved.
How do I apply for the Child Care Subsidy?
Most families can apply through Centrelink online. However some families will need to call Centrelink to get started.
Five easy steps to apply 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.
How much is it actually going to cost me?
This depends on the centre fees and how much CCS you are entitled to. The government pays CCS directly to the centre, we then bill each family for their gap payment. Once your CCS application has been approved you will know what your costs will be.
You can use a Subsidy Calculator like this one to give you an idea of costs while you are looking at centres.
What is the hourly rate?
When completing your Centrelink application they may ask you what the hourly fee for your centre is. To work out the hourly rate you take the daily fee and divide it by the number of hours.
E.g. Daily fee / number of hours = hourly rate
For Arden Nursery the daily fee is $113 and the centre is open 11.5 hours so the hourly rate is $9.83.
Centrelink does apply an hourly cap of $12.31 per hour. If you choose a centre where the hourly fee is higher than this you will have a larger gap fee.
Shantel’s Top Tips
- Call Centrelink early in the morning or during dinner/bedtime routine. Most families won’t be thinking about calling at these times so you should be able to get onto someone more quickly.
- The Centrelink helpline is open 8:00am-8:00pm Monday to Friday. Ph. 136 150
- If your income, activity level or family circumstances change you need to let Centrelink know to ensure that you are receiving the correct subsidy amount.
- Centrelink applies a 5% withholding, this is money that Centrelink keeps back to reduce the likelihood of an overpayment. You will receive this at the end of the financial year when the payments are balanced.
- You can increase the amount that Centrelink withholds and use it as a saving strategy!
- Centrelink works in fortnights. Your activity level and the number of hours of care you are entitled to are both discussed in fortnights.