2022-23 Crisis Fund Guidelines
1. Crisis Fund overview
The Crisis Fund supports the maintenance and/or creation of preschool places where there is an immediate and/or urgent need for capital works in at least one of the following circumstances:
- An existing centre-based long day care or community preschool service is facing closure or relocation due to exceptional or unforeseen circumstances, for example compulsory acquisition of premises or a natural disaster, which would result in children being unable to access preschool education in reasonable proximity to their community.
- An eligible organisation wants to expand an existing, or operate a new, centre-based long day care or community preschool in a remote or very remote area as per the Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Structure (ASGS) (ARIA Index) where access to preschool education is limited or non-existent.
- An Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation wants to expand an existing, or operate a new, centre-based long day care or community preschool service within NSW.
Applications for grant funding are received and assessed all year round or until funds are exhausted.
Purpose and objectives
The Crisis Fund under the Start Strong Capital Works Grants Program is part of the department’s commitment to increase the number of preschool places in NSW in areas of need and demand.
The broad objective of the Start Strong Capital Works Crisis Fund is to respond to a crisis with capital works to maintain and/or increase the number of three, four and five year old children who can access at least 600 hours per year (or 15 hours per week) of quality preschool education. This is the recommended level of participation in a quality early childhood education program in the two years before school.
An expected outcome of a Crisis Fund grant is the maintenance and/or creation of preschool places.
Preschool places: In these guidelines, ‘preschool places’ refers to approved licensed places that are dedicated for enrolments of preschool-aged children participating in a preschool education program delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher. Eligible centre-based service types include long day care, community preschool and Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Services (MACS).
The Crisis Fund will not fund any portion of a capital works project that relates to care for nursery and toddler-aged children.
Crisis Fund grants must also contribute to the following objectives:
Maximise the number of places available for preschool-aged children to attend at least 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week of quality preschool education.
Ensure the continued operation of the service to deliver preschool places throughout the ten-year compliance period.
Support ongoing management of the service in line with applicable regulatory requirements.
Where possible, leverage funds from sources external to the department, including private finance, charitable donations, grants from other state and federal government agencies and insurance claims (where applicable).
2. What is a Crisis?
The following lists examples of what the department does and does not consider to be a crisis for the purpose of the Crisis Fund.
A service provider who has to urgently relocate as their current lease has been unexpectedly terminated and they require funds to complete capital works on a new site, so their preschool can continue operating.
A service provider who has to undertake urgent structural remediation work as a result of bushfires or floods or other natural disaster, where their insurance has rejected the claims or provided insufficient funding.
A service provider who wants to operate a centre-based preschool in an area classified as remote or very remote on the ARIA index, and where there is limited or no access to preschool education as evidenced by a lack of preschool services in the community, long distances and accessibility issues such as unsealed roads.
An Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation who wants to increase access to culturally inclusive early childhood education for preschool-aged children anywhere in NSW.
A service provider that chooses to relocate to a different or more suitable site voluntarily and needs to undertake capital works on the new site.
A service provider that needs to undertake repairs to meet compliance, quality and regulatory requirements or maintenance repairs. These costs are the responsibility of the provider.
An eligible organisation who wants to operate a centre-based preschool to meet need and demand in a major city, inner regional, or outer regional area on the ARIA index.
The department reserves the right to consider and fund applications under the Crisis Fund for applicants who experience a crisis not covered by the examples. The department is able to fund applicants under the Crisis Fund where it is satisfied that there is an immediate and urgent need that has to be addressed in order to maintain and/or increase preschool provision within a community.
3. Who can (and cannot) be funded?
The Crisis Fund will not fund projects that:
do not maintain and/or increase preschool places;
are for services located outside NSW;
are submitted by a for-profit organisation or association, including a sole trader or a Pty Ltd company;
do not align with the program objectives;
do not meet the requirements outlined in these guidelines;
do not meet the assessment criteria;
have, at the time of assessing the application, already been completed (i.e. retrospective funding);
- duplicate project elements already funded through another source (i.e. where another grant is funding the same element/s).
There are items that you can and cannot include in project cost estimates in your Crisis Fund application. The items that cannot be funded by the grant must be covered by the service provider or other sources of funding. The examples provided in the list below are not exclusive.
project management costs
planning and design costs
soil hygienist reports
removal of contaminates on project sites (e.g. asbestos/arsenic), as long as it is within scope of the department’s financial contribution to the project
site preparation, including clearing or demolition
construction and commissioning
landscaping and car parking
playground equipment if evidence is provided that it was damaged as part of a natural disaster or similar circumstances
fixed fittings and fixed equipment
contingency (to a reasonable value).
site acquisition and lease costs
routine or cyclical maintenance works
spaces not used primarily for the delivery of a preschool education program (e.g. rooms for community or health services, or rooms/outdoor areas for provision of care for nursery or toddler age groups)
ongoing administration or operational costs
staff salaries and training
toys, portable equipment and consumables
cosmetic upgrades that do not increase capacity.
Preschool places in a long day care or multipurpose setting
The following definitions apply for the purposes of assessing Start Strong Capital Works Crisis Fund applications, and whether the proposed capital works projects will maintain and/or increase preschool places:
Approved number of places/licensed places: the maximum number of children that can be educated and cared for by the centre-based service at any one time, stated on the service approval and published in NQAITS.
Preschool places: Approved/licensed places dedicated for enrolments of preschool-aged children participating in a preschool education program.
Preschool-aged child: Children in the two years before school and three-year-old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children or three-year-old children with a disability, with additional needs, or from low income families.
Preschool education program: An early childhood educational program delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher to children in the two years before school, for at least 600 hours per year or 15 hours per week.
The Crisis Fund will not fund spaces that aren’t primarily used for preschool provision. This includes, but is not limited to:
rooms dedicated for community or allied health services,
rooms, facilities or spaces, both indoor and outdoor, that are utilised primarily for nursery or toddler age groups.
Applicants are encouraged to refer to the Crisis Fund Application Guide for detailed guidance on how to:
calculate and substantiate the number of licensed places that will be maintained and/or increased as a result of the capital works project
differentiate between licensed places and preschool places, for the purposes of applying for funding under the Start Strong Capital Works Grants Program.
substantiate the number of preschool places to be maintained and/or increased as a result of the capital works project.
differentiate and account for project costs that are not related to maintenance and/or increase of preschool places.
4. Who can apply?
To be eligible for funding, applicants must meet each of the following:
be registered or incorporated in Australia; and
be a not-for-profit organisation/ association or a local government entity; and
- operate, or intend to operate, an education and care service in NSW that delivers preschool education, as an Approved Provider with a valid Service Approval.
For-profit organisations are not eligible to apply for Crisis Fund grants.
Only applications from eligible applicants will progress to assessment against the assessment criteria.
4.1 Service eligibility
To be eligible for funding, the Approved Provider’s service must:
deliver, or intend to deliver, an early childhood education program to preschool-aged children, for at least 600 hours per year, that is designed by a degree qualified early childhood teacher, in accordance with The Early Years Learning Framework; and
- have, or intend to have, a service approval to operate in NSW and either:
- operate, or intend to operate, as a centre-based service with a ‘Nature of Care’ service type of preschool, or
- operate, or intend to operate, as a centre-based service with a ‘Nature of Care’ service type of long day care, or
- be an existing Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service (MACS) that has been assessed and rated by the NSW regulatory authority against the National Quality Standard.
Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) and non centre-based service types, such as family day care services, are not eligible for funding under the Start Strong Capital Works Grants Program.
For the purposes of applying for funding under the Crisis Fund, an Aboriginal organisation is required to meet each of the following criteria to be considered an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO). It must be:
an independent, not-for-profit organisation, that’s incorporated as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander organisation and/or is a registered community service,
initiated, based, governed and operated by the local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community,
accountable to its local community, and facilitate local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples to have input into service design, delivery and performance, and
- endorsed by the local community leadership to deliver holistic and culturally appropriate services or activities that benefit Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities and people, including empowerment and building strength.
These criteria are based on Clause 44 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
Aboriginal organisations are encouraged to refer to the Crisis Fund Application Guide for detailed information regarding the evidence or supporting documentation required to confirm the above criteria.
Existing Multifunctional Aboriginal Children’s Service (MACS) operating in NSW may be eligible for funding to expand preschool operations if the service has an assessment and rating. MACS with a provisional assessment and rating are eligible to apply, noting that the completion of the assessment and rating process will be a condition of funding.
Alternate pathways for expansion may be available for MACS whose service is yet to be assessed and rated by the NSW regulatory authority, such as creating a new centre-based service under the existing provider approval.
MACS are strongly encouraged to consider the application support that is available to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations under the 2022-23 Start Strong Capital Works Grants Program. More information is available on the department’s website.
NOTE: Any funding awarded under the Start Strong Capital Works Program is distinct from operational funding provided by the NSW and federal governments.
Applicants are required to complete a detailed application against the assessment criteria as the basis for seeking final funding approval.
Applications must be submitted via SmartyGrants by an Authorised Officer of the applicant.
An Authorised Officer must either appear as a Responsible Person on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) charity register or provide other evidence of authority.
Applicants will be notified as soon as practicable following the assessment outcome. During the assessment process the department may request additional information from applicants. The department may, in its absolute discretion, seek information from other NSW Government agencies or other third parties (such as probity advisors) to assist with the assessment of applications.
The submission of an application does not guarantee funding. Applications for funding will be assessed on a case by case basis against the assessment criteria and in line with these guidelines and the overarching Start Strong Capital Works Program objectives. The department may, in its absolute discretion, decline to provide funding or provide part funding.
Eligible applications will be assessed according to the following assessment criteria:
Maintenance and/or increase in the provision of preschool education services as a result of the proposed capital works project. Applicants must provide evidence that demonstrates the maintenance and/or increase in preschool places resulting from their proposed capital works project.
Cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children. Applicants must demonstrate how the project will create and nurture a culturally safe and responsive educational setting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, their families and ECE staff.
Accessibility and inclusion. The project will provide and/or improve the provision of a safe and appropriate educational setting for children with a disability, children with additional needs, and children from low income families.
Capacity and capability for delivery. Applicants must demonstrate readiness to proceed with the project and the capability to deliver their proposal with acceptable or tolerable risks.
Overall quality and completeness of the application. Applicants need to present a well-developed and comprehensive proposal and put forward a suitable solution to meet the policy objectives of the program.
Value for money. The cost of the project is within the agreed benchmarks for the funding category and any other attenuating factors that may impact the cost of the project have been considered.
The department will review an applicant’s past performance and assess whether it is likely to have an impact on successful delivery of the applicant’s project. This will include considering whether the applicant has:
taken appropriate steps to deliver previous projects funded through the Start Strong Capital Works Grants Program within appropriate timeframes (where applicable);
overdue projects funded by the department and whether extensions have been requested and/or approved; and
- completed projects funded by the department and whether the application has submitted all documentation required to acquit the grant funding has been submitted, including regular monthly reporting and acquittal within the contracted time frame.
As part of the assessment process the department reserves the right to have regard to information gained about applicants during its normal course of business and utilise that information during the assessment of eligible applications. This may include information regarding an applicant’s regulatory performance and compliance history with regard to their Provider Approval and any associated Service Approval/s (both current and historical).
Poor performance against these factors may result in projects not being recommended for funding or funding withdrawn.
6. Funding conditions
Applicants must review the Funding Agreement Terms and Conditions and Funding Acknowledgement Guidelines before submitting an application.
These documents clarify the obligations for applicants who ae successful in receiving funding under the Start Strong Capital Works Program, and are available on the department’s website.
All projects are expected to adhere to relevant building codes, guidelines and regulations.
agree to the requirements outlined in these guidelines. Failure to do so may result in funding being withheld or an offer of funding withdrawn;
agree to a security arrangement as a precondition for funding;
enter into a Funding Agreement with the department. Funding Agreements must be signed by an authorised officer of the applicant no later than four weeks after receipt;
follow the Funding Acknowledgement Guidelines for NSW Government infrastructure grants, including liaising with the Capital Programs team on events such as openings, and erecting signage for projects;
submit progress reports and required supporting evidence for approval by the department upon completion of agreed milestones and completion of the project;
- acknowledge that no additional grant funding will be allocated to the proposed project, including where there are cost overruns, and if additional costs arise, they will be met by the applicant.
Applicants must not enter into a contract or commence any works proposed in an application until a Funding Agreement has been executed with the department. Applicants who are offered a grant of funding that proceed with works prior to executing the Funding Agreement do so at their own risk. The department may not fund projects that are commenced before the Funding Agreement has been executed by the department and will not fund completed projects.
The Funding Agreement cannot be executed or funds paid until a security arrangement has been negotiated and executed with the department (if applicable). For more information on the security instrument requirements please refer to the support for preparing a grant application.
be operated by an organisation that is approved to provide early childhood education services in NSW or that has applied to obtain necessary provider approvals. For new providers, grant award will be contingent on provider approval being obtained;
offer, or (where an application for necessary approvals is pending) intend to offer, a centre-based service with a valid service approval as a long day care or preschool;
deliver a preschool education program for at least ten years from when the capital works project is completed. The places funded by any Crisis Fund grant must be available to the community as preschool places for a minimum ten year period from this date; and
- be compliant with the requirements of applicable land and state laws and regulations.
From time to time the department may request details regarding Provider/Service approval, approved/licensed places, enrolments and attendance of preschool-aged children at the service.
7. Contingency allowance
It is recommended applicants include a contingency allowance within the project budget to allow for unforeseen increases in project expenditure during delivery of the capital works project that are outside the applicant’s control.
There are two forms of contingency that may be covered in the capital works project:
Builder/construction contingency: This refers to the sum set aside to cover any costs escalations and overruns related to the build, such as increased material costs and labour costs or costs associated with unforeseen construction delays. It is expected that construction contingency will be included within the builder’s quote provided in support of an application.
- Provider contingency: This is contingency funding set aside by the applicant for other risks associated with delivery of the capital works project outside of any construction or builder expenses. These costs may be incurred at any time of the project lifecycle such as during the planning and design phase of the capital works project. Examples may include unforeseen and/or statutory fees. Provider contingency does not include project scope changes, and an applicant must ensure that its project is fully scoped and the scope is final as at the date that the application is submitted.
A reasonable allowance for contingency can be included in the project expenditure budget within the application for grant funding.
Funding for the contingency allowance will only be made if there are unforeseen increases in project expenditure that are outside the applicant’s control. The department will assess the circumstances giving rise to the unforeseen increases before determining whether to make contingency funding available.
8. Project management requirements
A suitable project manager must be identified in the application and appointed within four weeks of Funding Agreement execution.
The name and contact details (email, telephone number, including mobile) of the proposed project manager must be included in the application and confirmed in the Funding Agreement.
For applications with a total project cost of $500,000 or above, applicants must provide evidence of the project manager’s qualifications and experience in the management of infrastructure projects. Project management costs must be included in the applicant’s budget as part of the grant application.
Failure to follow these requirements regarding a project manager could ultimately result in the department withdrawing the funding commitment.
9. Project reporting requirements
As a condition of grant funding, successful applicants must comply with project monitoring and reporting requirements, including:
submitting milestone progress reports and supporting evidence when milestones have been met;
advising the department in advance of key milestones including architect appointment, design completion, ground breaking, construction completion, service approval and providing opportunities for public communication of these milestones;
advising the department of scope changes (relating to time, cost and project scope) by informing the department in writing;
attending site inspections, meetings and teleconferences with department staff or representatives if required; and
providing copies of building contracts, receipts and/or invoices when requested.
10. Project completion
Construction works must start within 12 months of receipt of a successful Outcome Letter. Crisis Fund projects must be completed and acquitted within 24 months of the Funding Agreement being executed.
Applicants may wish to apply under later rounds if they consider that they will be unable to deliver their project in the required timeframe.
Applicants with concerns about achieving project deliver timeframes may contact the Capital Programs Team on firstname.lastname@example.org or 1800 619 113 (toll free) prior to submitting their application to discuss their project timeline. Adjustments to this timeline may be considered by the department where there is evidence of exceptional circumstances and where an adjustment will not compromise the fairness of the process.
Any requests for extension to the project timeframes after a Funding Agreement has been entered into will be managed by the department in accordance with the provisions in the Funding Agreement. At a high level, such requests will generally involve:
the grant recipient contacting the department immediately upon identifying that they may not meet the timeframes for project delivery; and
- the grant recipient being required to provide detailed written evidence that explains the reason for the delay and demonstrates how the project will be completed within the additional time requested.
Grant recipients must note that timeframe extensions may not be approved, and that excessive delays may ultimately result in the department recommending to the Minister withdrawal of the funding commitment.
11. Service approvals
For all grants provided under the Crisis Fund, service approval will need to be obtained for any increase in approved/licensed places within 12 months of project completion.
For further information on the Approvals Process please visit the department’s website or contact the department’s Quality Assessment and Regulation Services on 1800 619 113 (toll free) or by emailing email@example.com.
12. Acquittal requirements
All successful applicants are required to complete the following requirements and submit a Final Works Report to the department to acquit their funding. The Final Works report must be signed and dated and include the following information:
certificate of final completion;
certificate of occupancy;
final project expenditure list;
letter of service approval or evidence that an application to amend service approval has been lodged;
photos of the completed project; and
evidence of the authority of the signatory/ies.
13. How to apply
Applications for a Crisis Fund grant are received and assessed all year round or until funds are exhausted.
Application forms can be accessed online at: https://earlychildhoodeducationprograms.smartygrants.com.au/2022-23CrisisFund
Applicants must register to use the SmartyGrants application system. Registration is a free and straightforward process.
For assistance with the online application system, please contact the SmartyGrants Support Desk by phone on (03) 9320 6888 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find a guide and Frequently Asked Questions at http://applicanthelp.smartygrants.com.au/
Applicants are strongly encouraged to download the sample application form from SmartyGrants and review the Crisis Fund Application Guide for further information and guidance on submitting an application.
All sections must be completed, and the application form submitted to be considered for funding. Changes can be made to an application any time until it is submitted.
14. Projects on NSW public school sites
Applicants proposing to build or upgrade a facility on a public school site must have a current licence agreement or lease to operate the service prior to applying for the grant.
For further information in relation to a current licence agreement or lease, please contact your current licence agreement contract manager at School Infrastructure NSW: email@example.com. Your contract manager can assist in facilitating any additional contact with stakeholders, such as the school principal and the Asset Management Unit of School Infrastructure NSW, to ensure the planned project is fully supported and can be accommodated on the school site.
Please note, any enhancements to the site, assets or equipment obtained with this grant for a project on a NSW public school site vests in the department.
15. Application checklist
Evidence of provider approval or a copy of an application to the regulatory authority.
A description and evidence of the crisis situation and its impact on the service/community.
A detailed project plan, risk assessment for the project and expected timeline.
A project description, including concept/ building design plans and final scope of works.
An itemised project budget, including the applicant's contribution and additional sources of funding for the project.
At least 2 quotes obtained in the past 4 months that reflect the final design of the capital works project. Applicants should contact the department if they are unable to obtain 2 quotes. In exceptional circumstances this requirement may be waived.
Confirmation of the number of preschool places that will be maintained and/or created with the final design of the capital works project.
A description and evidence demonstrating how the proposed project will create and nurture a culturally safe and responsive educational setting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Description and/or evidence of how the number of licensed places to be maintained and/or increased has been estimated in line with regulatory requirements (e.g. floor plans referencing unencumbered space ratios).
A description and evidence detailing how the proposed project will provide and/or improve the provision of an appropriate educational setting for children with a disability, children with additional needs, and children from low income families.
- Evidence of ability to proceed with the proposed project on the site including, but not limited to:
Evidence the applicant owns the site, or has a formal lease or alternate leasing agreement with the owner of the site for the minimum ten-year period.
Evidence the applicant has discussed this project with all affected stakeholders (landlord, Council, committee/board, SINSW if applicable, etc).
Evidence the applicant has discussed the requirement of a security arrangement as a precondition for funding with all relevant parties (including committee/board, lessor, landlord, SINSW, as applicable).
Information and evidence of other sources of funding, if any, and proof of funds for the applicant’s contribution, if any.
16. Contact details
For more information about the Start Strong Capital Works Grants Program please contact the Early Childhood Education Programs Directorate by phone or email.
Phone: 1800 619 113 (toll free)
Applicants may request detailed feedback on the outcomes of their application.
Applicants who have complaints about any aspect of the application and assessment process may submit their issue in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.