What is the OSCAR Subsidy?

Published on Wednesday, 04 April 2018
Last updated on Monday, 29 March 2021

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What is the OSCAR subsidy?

OSCAR stands for ‘Out of School Care and Recreation’. This subsidy helps some families with the cost of before and after school care, plus school holiday care, so it’s a valuable way to ensure children are looked after outside school hours – and inside the working week.

Let’s consider the key details of this government assistance. 

Who can receive the OSCAR Subsidy?

There are several factors, including individual circumstances and income, which determine which families will get the subsidy. 

You may qualify for the OSCAR Subsidy if:

  • You’re the main carer of a dependent child
  • You’re a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
  • Your family is on a low or middle income 

In addition, you must be in one of these situations:

  • Working, studying or on an approved training course
  • Taking part in an activity that Work and Income has requested you do
  • Working nights as a shift worker
  • Experiencing serious illness or disability
  • Caring for a child in hospital or for a child you get the Child Disability Allowance for

There are also criteria around your dependent child. They must:

  • Normally live in New Zealand
  • Be at school
  • Be under the age of 14 (or less than 18 years if you receive the Child Disability Allowance for them)
  • Be attending an approved OSCAR programme for at least three hours a week (i.e. before school care, after school care or a school holiday programme or camp)

Keep in mind that you can’t receive the OSCAR Subsidy if your child’s other parent or caregiver can take care of your youngster outside school hours. And the subsidy won’t be paid if your child attends an unapproved OSCAR programme. 

What’s the easiest way to see if you might qualify for the OSCAR Subsidy?

The ‘Check What You Might Get’ online guide is a simple way to gauge whether you may qualify for the OSCAR Subsidy (and any other financial assistance). 

Remember that this is just a guide, though, and you’ll need to formally apply for the subsidy to have your eligibility confirmed and any financial assistance provided.  

How much OSCAR Subsidy is paid to families?

The OSCAR Subsidy helps families with the cost of before and after school care for up to 20 hours a week, and school holiday programmes for up to 50 hours a week. 

If you qualify for the OSCAR Subsidy, then the amount you receive will depend on:

  • The size of your family;
  • Your family income; and
  • The number of hours your child goes to the approved OSCAR programme each week

All subsidies are paid directly to your child care provider, however, the ‘Check What You Might Get’ tool can estimate how much OSCAR Subsidy you may receive. 

There is a sliding scale when it comes to payment amounts, with low income families receiving the highest level of subsidy and those on high incomes receiving no financial assistance. 

The OSCAR Subsidy rates are updated annually and here are the rates (as of 1 April 2021) based on family size, income and the quantity of care being used:

Number of children Gross weekly income OSCAR subsidy (per hour, per child) OSCAR Subsidy (per week, per child)
During term time
(up to 20 hours)
During holidays (up to 50 hours)
1 Less than $800 $5.37 $107.40 $268.50
$800 to $1199.99 $4.28 $85.60 $214.00
$1200 to $1299.99 $2.99 $59.80 $149.50
$1300 to $1399.99 $1.67 $33.40 $83.50
$1400 or more 0 0 0
2 Less than $920 $5.37 $107.40 $268.50
$920 to $1379.99 $4.28 $85.60 $214.00
$1380 to $1489.99 $2.99 $59.80 $149.50
$1490 to $1599.99 $1.67 $33.40 $83.50
$1600 or more 0 0 0
3 or more Less than $1030 $5.37 $107.40 $268.50
$1030 to $1539.99 $4.28 $85.60 $214.00
$1540 to $1669.99 $2.99 $59.80 $149.50
$1670 to $1799.99 $1.67 $33.40 $83.50
$1800 or more 0 0 0

If you’re unsure about how many hours of approved out of school child care you’ll need, then don’t worry. If you work unpredictable, casual or on-call hours, Work and Income will explain your options when you apply for a subsidy.

It’s also worth noting that as well as assisting with before and after school care and holiday care, the government can also pay for care on teacher-only days, when you have to work, but your child can’t go to class.

When should families apply for the OSCAR Subsidy?

It’s recommended that you apply for the subsidy at least three to four weeks before your child starts going to OSCAR, so that you receive the subsidy from their first day. This is particularly important when it comes to school holidays. 

If you’re eligible for the OSCAR Subsidy, the government says it will provide financial assistance from the date you first contact them, or the date your child’s care started (whichever is later), if you submit your application within 20 working days of that date. 

How can families apply for the OSCAR Subsidy?

How you apply depends on whether you’re applying for the:

  • OSCAR Subsidy on its own; or the
  • OSCAR Subsidy and other payments

If you’re only applying for the OSCAR Subsidy, then:

  • You and your partner (if you have one) must complete a Childcare Assistance application form and provide the requested documents (e.g. proof of your identity and income);
  • Next, ask the supervisor of your child’s OSCAR programme to fill out the supervisor’s part of the form; 
  • Then email the application form and supporting documents to Work and Income. The email is Centralised_childcare_reviews@msd.govt.nz and your child care provider might be able to do this for you.

If you’re applying for the OSCAR Subsidy and other payments, then you can apply online.  

Once you’ve submitted your application, Work and Income will explain what else you need to do (such as asking your OSCAR provider to complete the supervisor’s part of the Childcare Assistance application form). 

What happens if you're moving from the Childcare Subsidy to the OSCAR subsidy?

If you've been getting the Childcare Subsidy to help pay for your pre-schooler's early childhood education, this subsidy will stop when they start school.

To switch to the OSCAR Subsidy and get assistance paying for out of school hours care, you need to complete a Change of Circumstances form for your child (and be eligible for the OSCAR Subsidy). There's details about the application prcoesss here.

Once you’ve started receiving the OSCAR Subsidy, do you need to confirm your child’s OSCAR arrangements on an ongoing basis?

Yes. If you want to keep getting subsidised care at an approved OSCAR programme, then you need to confirm this with Work and Income every term by completing an OSCAR Subsidy declaration form. 

The government will send you the form about a month before the school term ends, or you can download it here

The form covers school holiday child care arrangements and next school term child care arrangements. Just print it off, complete your sections (confirming your child care arrangements or advising of any changes) and get your OSCAR programme supervisor to complete their part.

To make sure your OSCAR Subsidy continues over the school holidays, you need to complete this form and return it to Work and Income before your child starts their OSCAR holiday programme. You can post it to your local Work and Income service centre or email it to Centralised_childcare_reviews@msd.govt.nz

If your child is attending multiple OSCAR programmes, you must complete a declaration form for each one. 

When do you need to re-apply for the OSCAR Subsidy?

You will need to re-apply for the OSCAR Subsidy if:

  • It’s been more than eight weeks since you last got the subsidy for outside school hours care
  • You want to enrol an additional child 
  • Your before school care, after school care and holiday care payments have been cancelled. 

To re-apply for outside school hours child care, use this form

What happens if your circumstances change?

If there is a change in your circumstances, like your job ending or your child leaving their OSCAR programme, then it’s important that you notify Work and Income straightaway. 

To ensure payments are correct, you must tell the government if:

  • Your income or your partner’s income changes
  • There’s a change in the number of hours you or your partner work, study or train each week
  • Your child stops attending the OSCAR programme or moves to another programme
  • Their attendance changes
  • The reason your family gets the OSCAR Subsidy changes, e.g. your health improves
  • Your child starts or stops getting 20 Hours ECE  

The government undertakes regular reviews of the childcare assistance it provides, and Work and Income needs to know if you’re no longer eligible to receive the OSCAR Subsidy or should be paid a new subsidy rate. 

There are several reasons why payments might need to cease (e.g. if your income goes above the income limit or your child attends an OSCAR programme for less than three hours a week) and you can read more about stopped payments here

All in all, the OSCAR Subsidy is a great help to eligible families. Just remember to apply ahead of time, plan for the school holidays and keep the government up-to-date with your family circumstances.

Work and Income

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