Is more flexible care the future?

Published on Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Last updated on Thursday, 30 January 2020

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Following introduction of the Child Care Subsidy in July this year a growing number of early childhood providers have started offering flexible and/or session-based care to better meet the needs of families.

Sessional care means families have the option for paying for a session of care, rather than a full 12-hour day, if this suits them better.

G8 Education, which is the second largest provider of early childhood education and care services in Australia, is offering families the option of nine-hour, ten-hour, and full day options under one flat fee which they say will enable families to make the most of the Child Care Subsidy.

G8 Education families can choose their start and finish times and are given a grace period at the start and end of the day in case they are running late for some reason.

G8 Education have produced a video for families to help them understand the options under the Child Care System and to ensure families know how to maximise the benefits available to them.

Similarly, Affinity Education Group, operator of more than 160 centres around Australia, has also introduced 9 and 10 hour sessional care dubbed 'Your Care Your Way.'

Affinity CEO Tim Hickey said the flexible set sessions would particularly benefit full-time working families with children in five-day a week care, who are limited to a maximum of 100 hours of subsidised care per fortnight.

"Our new 9-hour and 10-hour sessions will help eligible families receive the Child Care Subsidy for each hour their child attends the centre," Mr Hickey said.

"This will also offer flexibility to families with children attending 2, 3, or 4 days per week, to ensure their children can continue to benefit from quality early education," he said.

Centre Manager Claudette Snell, from A Step Ahead Early Learning Jindalee in Western Australia, said the 10-hour sessions had an immediate benefit for her families.

"We're doing all we can to support our families as they transition to the new Child Care Package, and the 10-hour sessions are exactly what they have been asking for," Ms Snell said.

"Five of our full-time families took up the 10-hour sessions within days of it becoming available. And families whose children attend at least three days each week see how their children are learning and growing through our programs and activities, so they don't want to drop days of care."

C&K has taken the flexible care offering a step further and offers parents and carers the opportunity to set start and finish times that suit them. This means a 9- or 10-hour sessional care period starts when a parent signs in and finishes when they sign out.

A grace period applies in this example too and parents have the opportunity to 'purchase' extra casual care by the hour if necessary.

According to the Department of Education there is no limit on how flexible an arrangement between a provider and families can be, however the details must be outlined in a Complying Written Arrangement. This agreement should describe whether the arrangement includes routine sessions (booked days), casual care, or a mix of routine and casual care.

If there are routine sessions, the arrangement must include the usual days and session times and the usual fee for those sessions. For casual care, the arrangement should include relevant terms, for example, any minimum period of care or that care is subject to availability and fees.

Casual changes to the agreement are permitted if they are reflected in the enrolment notice however, the Arrangement does need to be updated if a family changes its care arrangements on an on-going basis, for example by reducing or increasing care by one day a week.

To support early childhood providers offering session-based care we have enhanced our system to enable you to post session options, including duration, fees and hourly rates.

We are confident this enhancement will increase the uptake of sessional care among parents and work to reduce your vacancy rates.

Remember, transparency around fee information is an important consideration for parents when choosing care, and maintaining comprehensive, up-to-date fee information is an effective strategy for securing new enrolments.

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