A number of early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals aspire to run their own service some day, setting the direction for policy, practice and staffing which suits their vision of a thriving, successful sector.
Opening an ECEC service “from scratch” is a complex process, and one that requires aspiring owners to understand a number of elements such as:
Approved providers have a number of responsibilities, and as such the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has released a series of eLearning modules about obligations under the National Law and Regulations to help potential approved providers better understand these obligations, along with the source information for this piece, which can be found here.
Understanding the legislation
Both regulatory and funding requirements apply to those wishing to open ECEC services. For most service types in Australia the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations cover the legislative requirements approved providers need to be aware of to run a compliant service.
Prospective and established owners should also be aware of:
- Local government planning controls
- Working with children or vulnerable person checks and child protection laws
- Health department rules
- Food safety requirements.
Understanding how these rules apply in the context of the approved provider’s state or territory is important to planning a new business and working out the costs involved.
While many of those working in the ECEC sector will have a strong knowledge of the educational and compliance requirements of the NQF, approved providers need to have a knowledge of the NQF on an additional level.
Moving into the approved provider space, prospective owners should develop a strong knowledge of the:
There are four main service types in the ECEC sector:
- Long day care (LDC)
- Family day care (FDC)
- Outside school hours care (OSHC)
The NQF regulates the activities of most LDC, FDC and OSHC services, as well as preschools and kindergartens in most states and territories, excluding Western Australia and Tasmania.
Services that are not covered by the NQF may be regulated under local law. Information on seeking approval to operate one of these types of services is available on the relevant local regulatory authority.
Types of service approval
There are two types of approvals:
- Provider and service approval from the relevant state or territory government (National Law).
This approval deems the approved provider suitable to ensure the health, safety, wellbeing of children under the National Law. To be approved, the provider will need to demonstrate that they understand their obligations under the National Law and Regulations.
- Provider and service approval from the Australian Government (Family Assistance Law).
If the provider is applying for CCS approval, they will also need to demonstrate that they understand their obligations under the Family Assistance Law. Children’s education and care providers must be approved under the National Law to be eligible to administer CCS.
Approval from state and territory governments
The regulatory authority relevant to the provider’s jurisdiction will assess the application for National Law approval. Prospective approved providers will need to apply for:
- Provider approval – to become an approved provider. Provider approval is ongoing, recognised nationally and allows the provider to apply for service approval/s.
- Service approval – to operate an education and care service. Service approvals relate to the individual site/premises and the type of care provided e.g., centre-based (which includes long day care, kindergarten/preschool, and outside school hours care services) and family day care.
Interested parties can apply for provider and service approval online after registering an account on the NQA IT System). Lodging notifications and applications through the NQA IT System offers reduced processing times.
Approval from Federal Government
The Federal Government assesses applications to administer CCS payments. This is known as CCS approval or Family Assistance Law approval.
Family Assistance Law sets out the rules approved providers must follow if their service is approved for CCS. These obligations are outlined in the Child Care Provider Handbook.
Visit the Australian Government Department of Education for information on how to apply for approval under the Family Assistance Law to administer the CCS.
Further resources and information
Regulatory authorities in each jurisdiction are responsible for assessing most applications and notifications. In most cases the relevant regulatory authority is the first point of contact for approved providers.
The Australian Government Department of Education website provides CCS information and resources.
The Child Care Provider Handbook is an operating guide for approved providers that offers practical information about the requirements and responsibilities of providers and services that are approved under the Family Assistance Law.
Approved providers may also find useful information about setting up and running a service from their local council and state or territory government agencies responsible for health and child protection.
For information and resources on business planning and the steps for setting up a new business, visit www.business.gov.au.
ACECQA primary point of contact
Information about ACECQA’s functions, and support available for approved providers, can be found here.
For inquiries related to provider and service approval applications under the National Law prospective approved providers should contact their state or territory regulatory authority.
Family Assistance Law and CCS application inquiries can be directed to:
This information has been prepared based on guidance from ACECQA. To access it in its original format, please see here.