20 Hours Free ECEQuestion

When my child turned 3 we were asked if we wanted to sign up for the 20 hours and told it would mean a discount, so that we would pay about $80 for 21 hours of care. I was under the understanding that the 20 hours was fully subsidised, but the Manager told me that the Government lets the daycare decide what to do with the funding and that it can be used to offer a discount. A couple of my friends say that their daycare do the same.  My problem is that things got so awkward when I raised it the first time, that I don't want to raise it again with the Manager. Does the Ministry of Education regularly check on daycare charging practices? Or is the scheme run on trust?



20-Hours ECE funding can be claimed by the daycare from the Ministry of Education for up to 6 hours per day, and up to 20 hours per week after you have signed up to the 20-Hour scheme. Because the daycare can only claim up to 6 hours per day there might be some hours above the 6 each day which cannot be put towards 20-Hours ECE and for which you are being charged $80.00. For example, if your child attends for 8 hours in a day, only 6 can be claimed for 20-Hours ECE Funding, leaving 2 hours which would be charged at the rate set by the daycare.

Ask for a copy of the fees structure if the centre has not supplied parents with this or does not display this in a visible place for parents to read.  It should show the usual hourly/daily/weekly rate for children aged 3 and over who are not on 20-Hours ECE Funding and for children who are on up to 20 hours of 20-Hours ECE Funding.

The centre can also put ‘Optional Charges’ on 20-Hours Funding. It can only request payment as an optional charge (and not as a fee) for the following:

  • aspects of provision that are not required by regulation
  • additional teaching staff beyond the minimum regulated adult/child ratio; this may include payment to contribute to the cost of registered teachers if the centre has more than 80% registered teachers and falls into the 80%+ funding band as shown on its most recent Ministry of Education payment advice notice (you can ask to see this for proof)
  • items that parents may either provide for their own children, or pay for the service to provide.

Optional charges should be for and reflect the real and actual costs of the additional item or activity.

The centre must ensure that the activity or item offered is over and above what is required by regulation (click here to go to more information on regulation requirements for daycare)

Optional charges cannot be a condition of initial or continued enrolment.  

Optional charges cannot be requested for:

  • aspects of provision that are required by regulation
  • general contributions towards the cost of high quality education and care provided by the service or due to the service being well regarded
  • the employment of registered teachers in a centre if funded below the 80%+ rate.

The centre must give parents reasonable opportunity to review their commitment to paying optional charges.

Check the copy of the centre's fees structure as this should show clearly what optional charges are associated with the fee structure.

The Ministry audits daycare and other ECE services to check on funding. If you believe your daycare is breaking the rules then make a written complaint to the Ministry to ensure that the Ministry actions your complaint and you are informed of the outcome (click here for guidance on how to make a complaint). If you choose you may ask the Ministry to treat your complaint as anonymous (i.e. not to disclose your name to the centre).

When the Ministry receives a complaint it should contact the centre and check that it is following the correct rules. In many cases, a daycare manager may not have taken time to understand the rules and may quickly make corrections when the Ministry explains the rules. The Ministry may also bring forward the audit process for the centre and do this sooner rather than later in response to information you provide to it.