2024 Start Strong for Long Day Care FAQs

Find answers to the questions most frequently asked about the 2024 Start Strong for Long Day Care program.

2024 program

The 2024 Start Strong for Long Day Care (LDC) program commences on 1 January 2024.

Funding under all 4 streams is paid to the approved provider of the eligible service who then expends funding to support eligible children and families access a quality preschool program.

The 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment (formerly known as Trial Payment) enables services to:

  • improve the quality of the preschool program provided to children by supporting capability uplift of early childhood teachers (ECTs) and educators, the attraction and retention of ECTs and educators, purchase of educational resources and program development
  • reach out to their community to offer and promote quality early childhood education.

The 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment enables services to improve affordability for families of eligible children by reducing the cost of early childhood education. Services pass on fee relief to the families of eligible children as a weekly reduction to a family’s session fee or gap fee (after the Child Care Subsidy has been applied) allocated across the total service operating weeks for the calendar year.

Changes include:

  • Fee relief has been introduced for eligible 3 year old children. Families with children who are 3 years old and not yet 4 years old on, or before 31 July in 2024 and are enrolled at an eligible LDC service may save up to $500 in 2024.
  • Information about program funding for 3 year old children (3YO Program Trial Payment)(formerly known as Trial Payment) which is continuing in 2024 has been incorporated into the 2024 Start Strong for LDC program guidelines. Information for all funding streams is now in a single location.
  • 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment spending rules have been aligned. The target groups remain children aged 4 and above and children aged 3, respectively. See Section 4.2 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment spending rules of the guidelines.
  • Example activities for each 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment spending rule have been provided. See Appendix 2 – Spending rules activities of the guidelines.
  • Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) information has been updated from 2016 to 2021 data. The SEIFA information of a service is determined by the Australian Government using the SEIFA Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage 2021 provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). See Appendix 1.1 Calculation of funding of the guidelines.
  • 4YO+ Program Payments and 3YO Program Trial Payments will be paid in biannual instalments, instead of quarterly instalments. See Appendix 1.2 Payment of funding of the guidelines.
  • If an approved provider is transferring a service to another approved provider, the transferring approved provider must not transfer unspent funds to the receiving approved provider. Any Unexpended Funds, Reserved Funds and Surplus Funds must be returned to the department. See Appendix 4 – Service changes of the guidelines.

Yes, on 13 September 2023, the NSW Government announced several budget initiatives to invest in early learning and enhance the sector’s workforce. This included a $64 million investment over two years to provide $500 in fee relief per child, per year for parents of 3 year old children in LDC preschool programs.

Yes, the 2024 Start Strong for LDC program guidelines have been updated to include information about fee relief for 3 year old children, including program activities, requirements, objectives, outcomes and evaluation approach.

Yes, information about fee relief for 3 year old children is available on the department’s Start Strong for families webpage and within the LDC families flyer (PDF 443KB)

The declaration and consent form (PDF 91 KB) for 2024 Start Strong for LDC is available and can be provided to the families of children who are at least 3 years old on or before 31 July 2024.

To assist services to communicate the declaration and consent form to families, a template letter (PDF 130 KB) that services can download and place on their letterhead is available. This letter explains the process to access fee relief and how and why the declaration form must be filled out.

Program eligibility

Services are not required to apply for the 2024 Start Strong for LDC program. The department conducts regular checks to identify and confirm the eligibility of services. Eligible services will be contacted by the department to confirm funding arrangements. See Section 3.1 Service eligibility criteria of the guidelines.

Services are encouraged to give equal priority of access according to the guidelines below.

Priority of Access category Child
Priority of Access category 1

Children aged 4 and above who are:

  • from low income families
  • from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
  • with disability and/or additional needs
  • with language needs
  • who are at risk of significant harm (from a child protection perspective).

There is no order of priority assigned to the list above.

Priority of Access category 2 Children aged 4 and above who do not fall into category 1.
Priority of Access category 3

Children aged 3 who are:

  • from low income families
  • from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
  • with disability and/or additional needs
  • with language needs
  • who are at risk of significant harm (from a child protection perspective).

There is no order of priority assigned to the list above.

Priority of Access category 4 Children aged 3 who do not fall into category 3.

See Section 3.2.1 Priority of access in the guidelines for further details.

Spending rules and activities

Services use the 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment in a number of ways to improve the preschool program they provide. Funding must be expended according to Section 4.2 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment spending rules of the guidelines.

Services use the 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment to reduce the cost of early childhood education for families by providing up to $2,110 per year in fee relief for children aged 4 and above.

Services use the 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment to reduce the cost of early childhood education for families by providing up to $500 per year in fee relief for children aged 3.

Funding must be expended according to Section 4.3 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment spending rules of the guidelines.

Fee guidelines

Services can continue to charge these levies. Services will need to retain evidence of the reasons for additional charges for funding compliance reviews.

Services are not permitted to increase their service’s fees to offset the benefit of the 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment or 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment.

In circumstances where it is necessary to adjust fees, such as due to reasonable increases in operating costs, approved providers must retain evidence to support the fee increase. Evidence such as increased rent or insurances can be used.

The department will be monitoring fees and additional charges through annual reporting and compliance processes for the Start Strong for LDC program. See Section 4.3 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment spending rules and Section 5.7 Financial accountability of the guidelines for further details.

Fee relief

Eligible children who are at least 4 years old on or before 31 July 2024 and have nominated to receive fee relief from your service will receive up to $2,110 of fee relief.

Eligible children who are 3 years old and not yet 4 years old on or before 31 July in 2024 and have nominated to receive fee relief from your service will receive up to $500 of fee relief.

Fee relief is provided as a weekly reduction averaged across your service’s total operating weeks of the year. See Section 4.3 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment spending rules and Appendix 1.1 Calculation of funding of the guidelines for further details.

Fee relief for 3 year old children enrolled in preschool programs at LDC services is an historic investment in affordable quality preschool provision for 3-year-old children and provides a path to higher fee relief for families in the year before school. This is acknowledged in the different fee relief payment amounts between 2 years before school and the year before school.

The flat rate annual allocation per enrolment for eligible children is divided by the number of operating weeks for the calendar year and applied as a weekly reduction to a family’s session fee or gap fee (after the Child Care Subsidy has been applied).

See case studies (PDF 44 KB) for examples on how to apply the fee relief.

Yes. The fee relief will have no impact on the amount of Commonwealth Child Care Subsidy (CCS) families receive. See the case studies (PDF 44 KB) for a practical example of how the fee relief can be calculated.

Yes, all eligible children enrolled at an eligible service can access fee relief. Families do not have to be eligible or receiving CCS to be eligible for Start Strong funding. The child must be a confirmed enrolment in the service data captured in the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS).

Where a family’s gap fees have been reduced to zero in a regular billing period, the remaining fee relief is considered a surplus (Surplus Funds). The approved provider must spend Surplus Funds to cover any additional charges imposed on the eligible child, such as levies.

Remaining Surplus Funds from the 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment may then be used to reduce the fees for children that are 3 years old and not yet 4 years old on, or before, 31 July 2024 (the child’s birthdate must be on, or between, 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021) at the discretion of the service, for example children of families with greatest need.

Remaining Surplus Funds from the 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment may then be used to reduce the fees for children that are 4 years old on, or before, 31 July 2024 (the child’s birthdate must be on, or before, 31 July 2020) at the discretion of the service, for example children of families with greatest need.

See Section 4.3 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment spending rules in the guidelines for further details.

Yes, eligible children enrolled at an eligible service in January 2024, prior to the start of their school year, are eligible to receive fee relief. See Section 3.2 Child eligibility criteria in the guidelines for further details.

Families can only access fee relief at one service at any given time. At each service their child is enrolled, parents/carers/guardians must complete a declaration and consent form to nominate which service they will access the fee relief from.

For mixed service centres/multipurpose centres, where the service receives funding under Start Strong for LDC and Start Strong for Community Preschools, families can only access fee relief from one funding program. Parents/carers/guardians must complete a Start Strong for LDC declaration and consent form and a Start Strong for Community Preschools declaration form to nominate which funding program they will access the fee relief from.

This means families cannot access 2 instalments of fee relief at the same service.

Services are not responsible for repaying any fee relief funding provided to families who have incorrectly asked for it at their service. The department will monitor access to fee relief through data collections in 2024.

Yes, a family may change their nominated service at any time. At each service, their child is enrolled, the parent/carer/guardian must complete a new declaration and consent form to confirm their change in nominated service.

Where an enrolment is immediately replaced by a new eligible child the remaining fee relief is passed on to the new child.

When there is a break between eligible enrolments, funding is considered Reserved Funds until the next eligible child that takes up that enrolment.

More information on Reserved Funds is included in Section 4.3 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment spending rules of the guidelines.

While families can access fee relief at only one service for their child, each service the child is enrolled in during the representative week will be provided the full allocation of 4YO+ Program Payment or 3YO Program Trial Payment in line with the program funding calculations for each eligible enrolment. More information is included in Appendix 1 Calculation and payment of funding in the guidelines.

Declaration and consent forms

The purpose of the declaration and consent form is to allow the families of eligible children to:

  • nominate which service the family will receive fee relief from
  • declare whether the child is enrolled at another service, and if so, nominate which service the family will receive fee relief from
  • consent to the child’s information being provided to the department for the purposes outlined in the declaration and consent form and in Section 5.3 Data reporting and submission in the guidelines.

Declaration and consent forms should be completed prior to children attending your service in 2024 or upon enrolment in 2024. This will ensure fee relief is provided to families from their first week of attendance.

Families cannot access fee relief unless they complete a declaration and consent form.

Yes. Families of eligible children must complete a new declaration and consent form for 2024 Start Strong for LDC.

The declaration and consent obtained from families for 2023 Start Strong for LDC does not apply to 2024 Start Strong for LDC.

The declaration and consent form can be used for all eligible children who are at least 3 years old on or before 31 July 2024. Families will need to complete a separate form for each eligible child enrolled at your service.

It is at the discretion of the service whether to backdate fee relief by applying a credit to the family’s account.

If the service has sufficient fee relief funding, it is strongly encouraged that funding is backdated to the beginning of the child’s enrolment in 2024.

Services may be required to return remaining Surplus Funds and Reserved Funds to the department. More information about these requirements is included in Section 5.8 Management of unspent funds of the guidelines.

Families cannot access fee relief unless the parent/carer/guardian completes a declaration and consent form. Services are encouraged to work with families to understand any concerns or barriers to completing the declaration and consent forms to support all eligible children to receive the fee relief.

Services should record why a family has not been able to complete a declaration and consent form.

Yes, services are required to collect a completed declaration and consent form for all enrolled children that are eligible for fee relief, regardless of whether the family wants to access fee relief at your service.

A completed declaration and consent form is required for consent for a child’s information to be provided to the department for the purposes outlined in the declaration and consent form and in Section 5.3 Data reporting and submission of the guidelines.

A family can indicate that they do not want to access fee relief at your service in the parent/carer/guardian declaration section of the declaration and consent form.

Yes, where a family changes their nominated service the parent/carer/guardian must complete a new declaration and consent form to confirm the change and consent for their child’s information to be provided to the department.

Services must provide declaration and consent forms to the families of all enrolled children that are eligible for fee relief. Services must retain completed forms for the purposes of reporting and compliance reviews.

Services are not required to provide the declaration forms to the department unless requested.

Services must ensure they can meet the fee relief data reporting requirements where consent from the parent/carer/guardian has been provided. More information about these requirements is included in Section 5.3 Data reporting and submission of the guidelines.

Services must indicate in their software system if the parent/carer/guardian has completed the declaration and consent form and has given consent for the child's information being provided to the department.

Transition to School Statement

Ensuring every child has a positive transition to school is a policy goal of the department. Our responsibility is to engage with all participants in the transition to school – children, parents, ECEC services and schools.

Our research tells us that:

  • children who make a smooth transition to school maintain higher levels of social competence and academic achievement throughout their lives.
  • initial success in transitioning to a new school environment can lead students to develop long-term positive attitudes towards learning and positively influence their wellbeing later in life.

The Transition to School Digital Statement (TTSDS) is a free, collaborative tool to support this process. We encourage you to use it in conjunction with other methods that are suitable for your service, families, and your local primary teachers..

Early childhood teachers and educators can complete the Transition to School Digital Statement via the department’s digital platform as the preferred method. Where access is not possible, the PDF version (PDF 434 KB) can be completed.

Yes, additional consent will need to be obtained from parents/carers for the TTSDS. ECEC services use the Transition to School consent form to authorise the department to collect personal and health information about the child in the TTSDS.

The TTSDS is a summative assessment of the child and provides information about the child’s development, strengths, and learning needs. The Transition to School parent consent form is the correct document to be uploaded onto the platform enabling the educator to then proceed with the completion of the TTSDS.

The purpose of the declaration and consent form is to allow the families of eligible children to:

  • nominate which service the family will receive fee relief from
  • declare whether the child is enrolled at another service, and if so, nominate which service the family will receive fee relief from
  • consent to the child’s information being provided to the department for the purposes outlined in the declaration and consent form and in Section 5.3 Data submission in the guidelines.

Families cannot access Start Strong fee relief unless they complete the declaration and consent form.

Yes. The digital statement is a free, collaborative tool to support the transition to school for NSW children. Where access to the digital statement is not possible, the PDF version (PDF 434 KB) can be completed.

The department acknowledges that there are lots of diverse ways to support the transition to school for NSW children and recommends that ECEC services and schools create partnerships to build strong and supportive transition pathways. The digital statement can be used in conjunction with other methods that are suitable for your service, families, and your local primary teachers.

While the platform currently only allows for statements to be sent directly to public schools, services can save a statement created on the Transition to School Digital Statement as a PDF and email it to an independent or Catholic school.

Completion of the Transition to School Statement is recommended for children in the year before they commence Kindergarten.

This will vary due to individual service and community needs, it is recommended that it is completed at the end of the year before school with variations for individual children, family, and service needs.

Professional learning and helpful resources are available on the department’s Transition to School webpage to support teachers and educators in early childhood services to provide meaningful information in the Transition to School Statement.

Calculation and payment of funding

Start Strong for LDC funding, including fee relief, is based on enrolment data, not attendance.

The funding amounts communicated to approved providers via email and in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS) are exclusive of GST. The funding you receive may include GST this depends on whether the approved provider is registered for GST.

In line with the Terms and Conditions, the department calculates GST payable by the approved provider and forwards this with any funding payments. It is then the responsibility of the approved provider to remit GST received to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

We understand that enrolment numbers change. Initial 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment funding allocations for 2024 will be calculated using the NSW Enrolment data from June 2023 provided by the Australian Government.

Adjustments to funding will be applied by the end of 2024 to reflect variations in enrolment numbers, using a representative week in 2024. The dates that make up the representative week in 2024 are yet to be determined and the department will advise the approved provider when it is known.

The 4YO+ Program Payment and 3YO Program Trial Payment will be paid in 2 instalments:

  1. from January 2024 – for period January to June 2024
  2. from July 2024 – for period July to December 2024.

The 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment will be paid in 2 instalments:

  1. from December 2023 – for period January to September 2024
  2. from July 2024 – for period October to December 2024.

Funding will not be paid unless the approved provider has accepted the Early Childhood Outcomes Commissioned Programs – Funding Agreement – Terms and Conditions – 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2024 (Terms and Conditions) in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS).

More information is included in Appendix 1.2 Payment of funding in the guidelines.

The 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment is paid to services who then pass it on to families in the form of reduced fees.

The first 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment will be larger to enable to services to pass on fee relief to more eligible children. This payment system will ensure services with more children accessing fee relief at their service than their initial funding allocation will receive more of their allocated fee relief earlier in the year to cover the gap.

The 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment and 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment will be paid in 2 instalments according to the schedule below:

  • 75% of the service/s initial funding allocation from December 2023 – for period January to September 2024
  • 25% of the service/s initial funding allocation from July 2024 – for period October to December 2024.

You will receive a Payment Advice from the department via email for each payment made. The Reference No. column indicates whether the payment is related to the 4YO+ Program Payment, 4YO+ Fee Relief Payment,3YO Program Trial Payment, or 3YO Fee Relief Trial Payment. The Details column indicates which service the payment is for.

The department will communicate initial funding amounts, including a breakdown of loadings and the number of eligible fee relief enrolments funded, to the approved providers of eligible services via email.

Payment amounts for each service are also recorded in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS). Follow these instructions to log in to ECCMS to view payments for each service:

  1. To log into ECCMS, access the portal link and log in using your myGovID.
  2. On the ECCMS menu, click Funding Specification.
  3. Click the Start Strong for LDC (SSL) funding specification for the service.
  4. Click the Payments tab.
  5. View the payments made for each service. The payment type can be identified in the Schedule Name column.

Please note that the funding amounts communicated to approved providers via email and in the ECCMS exclusive of GST. The funding you receive may include GST – this depends on whether the approved provider is registered for GST.

Category:

  • Early childhood education

Business Unit:

  • Early Childhood Outcomes
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