20 Hours Free ECE

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.


Which Children are Eligible for 20 Hours ECE Funding and Restrictions on Access

Free ECE applies only to 3, 4, and 5 year olds before they start attending school.  It can be accessed 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 20 Hours ECE Income-Tested or Affected by How Much a Parent Earns

Whether or not a parent is in paid employment or the family is high or  low socio-economic status, 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 a parent or primary caregiver be returning to work, their access to up to 20 hours of ECE without compulsory fees should remain unchanged.


The obligations ECE services have or what they can and cannot do 

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 an additional extra 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.

Should a centre or homebased service seem to be charging high fees for hours of care outside of the 20 Hours funded, question your service provider about this and ask for clarification.  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. 


When parents want to transfer some or all of the 20 HOURS temporarily to another service (e.g. when their usual service closes for holidays)

Go to an article with information about doing this.


How can a parent challenge the charging practices of a service when it's incorrectly charging under the 20-Hours ECE funding scheme?

Read a parent's letter and our answers - add your comments and share your experience.


What if you have made a complaint to the service and it has not listened to you and responded to your satisfaction?

Go to our 'Report a Problem' page for futher steps you may take


How much your ECE service receives from Government for your child per number of hours enrolled

 Financial assistance for parents and subsidies