20 Hours ECE

Published on Monday, 28 October 2019
Last updated on Tuesday, 31 December 2019

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What is 20 Hours ECE and how do I get it?

The government recognises the importance of early childhood education (ECE) in the years leading up to school age, and its 20 Hours ECE subsidy ensures that all preschoolers can reap the rewards of ECE, regardless of their family’s income.

Here we look at the subsidy in more detail. 

What does 20 Hours ECE offer?

This subsidy applies to all three, four and five year olds who attend an early childhood service. As long as your child attends an ECE service or kōhanga reo that offers 20 Hours ECE, the government will pay for up to six hours a day and up to 20 hours a week of ECE for your preschooler. 

You can choose to use as many or as few of the 20 Hours ECE, up to that six hours/20 hours a week cap. However, keep in mind that the ECE service or kōhanga reo might have a minimum number of hours or days that enrolled children need to attend. 

What eligibility criteria are there around 20 Hours ECE?

This subsidy is not income-tested or restricted by citizenship requirements and your child is eligible for 20 Hours ECE from their third birthday until their sixth birthday, while they hold a place at their ECE service or kōhanga reo. 

20 Hours ECE can’t be claimed for school children, conditionally enrolled children who don’t attend the service or casually-booked children who don’t go either. 

There are also ground rules around who can offer 20 Hours ECE. To be eligible, your child’s ECE service or kōhanga reo must: 

  • Be licensed
  • Open continuously for at least one session of 2.5 hours per week; and
  • Meet all the 20 Hours ECE funding rules.

Remember it’s not just centre-based providers who offer the subsidy. Provided they meet the criteria, licensed home-based ECE services can offer 20 Hours ECE too.

It’s also important to note that if a service offers 20 Hours ECE, it is available to all three, four and five year olds who attend. The subsidy can’t be offered to some kids and not others, or only offered for particular times or days.

How do you apply for 20 Hours ECE?

The first thing you need to do is check that your preschooler’s ECE service or kōhanga reo offers 20 Hours ECE. 

If they do, then you apply for the subsidy by filling in an enrolment agreement at the ECE service or kōhanga reo and completing an ‘attestation’, where you have to write and sign for the days and hours you’re claiming as 20 Hours ECE. 

You can choose any of your child’s enrolled hours to claim. You can also split the hours between more than one ECE service or kōhanga reo, up to the six hours a day/20 hours a week limit.

This subsidy is paid directly to your preschooler’s ECE service or kōhanga reo, so you don’t have to do a separate application with the Ministry of Education. 

Keep in mind, too, that if your child is younger than three years old and already enrolled at their ECE service or kōhanga reo, you’ll need to apply for 20 Hours ECE just before their third birthday.

Can you change your child’s hours and place?

Yes, it is possible to change how many hours your child attends their ECE service or kōhanga reo (e.g. if they’re going to be absent from care). Just make sure the enrolment form and attestation reflect the changes.  

You can also use your 20 Hours ECE at another ECE service or kōhanga reo over the school holidays (e.g. if your usual provider is closed), but will need to record your hours/days and choose your 20 Hours ECE on the new enrolment form.

What costs do families bear under 20 Hours ECE?

The government fully subsidises up to six hours per day and up to 20 hours a week, but if your child attends for more than those hours, then you’ll have to pay the difference. 

For instance, if your four-year-old goes to kindergarten for seven hours on a Monday, six of these hours can be funded by 20 Hours ECE, and the extra hour will be payable by you. 

When it comes to pricing, ECE services and kōhanga reo are entitled to charge families their usual enrolment fees, and they’re also allowed to ask for donations and optional charges (which are just that – optional). 

Can you claim 20 Hours ECE and Childcare Subsidy?

Although it’s possible for some families to get 20 Hours ECE and an income-tested Childcare Subsidy, you can’t claim for the same hours. In practice, this means that if you’re eligible for 30 hours Childcare Subsidy, you can claim 20 Hours ECE, then get Childcare Subsidy for the remaining 10 hours. 

In summary, 20 Hours ECE shows that the government is committed to giving preschoolers a great start and easing child care costs for families. 

20 Hours ECE funds many enriching experiences for your child, and if you’re confused about anything or need guidance around 20 Hours ECE, then your child’s ECE service or kōhanga reo will be able to help. Your local Ministry of Education office is also on hand if needed. 

Ministry of Education
ECE Funding Handbook


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