Any fees within the first 20 hours of care must be treated as optional charges. Parents can be asked to pay charges for the first 20 hours of their child (aged 3 – 6 years) attending an ECE service (up to a 6-hour daily limit). But services cannot make parents pay as charges within these hours are ‘optional’ and not compulsory.
Children eligible for 20 Hours ECE and restrictions on access
Free ECE applies only to 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds before they start attending school. It is available for up to a maximum of 20 hours per week and for no more than 6 hours in a day at any ECE service that is signed up to administer the Ministry of Education 20 Hour ECE scheme.
Is access to 20-Hours means tested?
Regardless of the level of household income, or whether parents are in paid employment, the ability to access 20 hours of ECE for up to a maximum of 6 hours a day at services offering this, remains unchanged.
Should your centre or home-based ECE service ask you to pay a particular amount on top of receiving the 20-hour subsidy for your child, 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.
It is not permitted for services to transfer any of the cost of providing 20 hours ECE a week (up to 6 hours daily limit) to other hours in the week that the child attends.