By Emma Thomas
Oh the child care subsidy – what a confusing system! Having worked in early childhood since I left school I thought I would understand, but having to navigate it as a parent I am still confused! I sat down and had a chat with Shantel and she helped me figure out some things.
“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.”
Shantel shared with me some of the most common questions that she gets from families and her best tips!
Can you explain the Child Care Subsidy?
It’s a payment from the federal government. It is to help families with their child care fees. Each family is entitled to different amounts. This is calculated based on your income, how many hours of work (or other approved activities) you complete and your family circumstances. You need to be an Australian citizen (or hold a specific visa) to receive CCS.
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 can I apply for CCS?
As soon as possible! It can take 6-8 weeks for your application to be processed so we recommend starting it early. You can actually start applying for CCS while you are still looking at centres.
If you don’t apply for CCS before your child starts you will have to pay full fees until your application is processed.
How do I apply?
Start the application process through Centrelink online. This will work for most families but if you encounter problems you will need to call Centrelink and speak to 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.
What will my weekly costs be?
This depends on the centre fees and how much CCS you receive. The CCS payment is made by the government directly to the centre, then you will be billed for the gap payment. We will be able to tell you what your regularly ongoing costs will be once your CCS application has been approved.
You can look at a Subsidy Calculator like this one to give you an idea of how much CCS you might receive and what the cost will be.
Why do I need to know my hourly rate?
When filling out the Centrelink paperwork they require the hourly fee for your chosen centre. Centres will provide you with a daily fee then you can work out the hourly fee.
E.g. Daily fee / number of hours = hourly rate
For MELC the daily fee is $118 and the centre is open 12 hours so the hourly rate is $9.83.
There is a Centrelink cap of $12.31 per hour. If your chosen centre has a high hourly rate than this you will pay a larger gap fee.
- When you need to talk to Centrelink call at busy times of the day! While most families are getting out the door in the mornings or doing the dinner/bath/bed routine your call will go through more quickly.
- The Centrelink helpline is open 8:00am-8:00pm Monday to Friday. Ph. 136 150
- You need to let Centrelink now of any changes to your income, activity level or family circumstances. If things change and they are overpaying you, there will be a bill at the end of the financial year.
- Centrelink does withhold 5% of your payment to reduce the risk of overpayment. You will receive this at the end of financial year when everything is 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. It can be very easy to get mixed up here.