20 Hours Free ECE – Rules and Fees

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Early childhood services are currently provided a higher rate of public funding for the first 20 Hours a child (ages 3 – 5 year) attends each week (a maximum of 6 hours in any day). In 2023 the Labour Government said as part of Budget 2023 that it would extend the funding to include children aged 2 – however the delivery or not of this promise will depend on the next government.

Optional charges for accessing 20 Hours ECE

20 Hours Free ECE

Should your centre or home-based ECE service ask you to pay an amount on top of the 20-hour subsidy, check if it provides the following information as explained below.

When asking families to pay an optional charge for any hours within the 20 Hours ECE subsidy allocation, the service must provide details on how the charge relates directly to the child’s education and care and it must be for additional extras and not for something that should be provided for anyway under the regulations as part of being an ECE service. 

The information families are provided with should show the real and actual costs of each of the additional items and activities that are included within the optional charges (e.g., the bus fare for a field trip is $4, lunches over a week are $20, or a sunhat is $8.00).  

The service should inform families in writing that they will not be penalised in any way should they decline to pay the optional charges.

An ECE service is able to withhold the additional feature(s) covered by the optional charge. But no ECE service should decline the enrolment of or discriminate against a child whose parents do not agree to pay an optional charge.

However, once parents have agreed to pay optional charges (check the signed enrolment form) then parents legally must pay the optional charges. The Ministry of Education requires services to give families reasonable opportunities to opt-out of their agreement to pay optional charges.

Read more:

Changing 20-Hours ECE temporarily to another service

20-Hours ECE can still cost parents a lot and be expensive

Parent access to information on service funding

How to make a complaint

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