NSW has introduced some new measures for Start Strong funding in 2023.
It aims to help services provide 600 hours of free or low cost preschool per year.
But how does it work? And what do providers need to do?
Start Strong for Community Preschools
The NSW funding for free preschool is split up into 2 categories: community preschool and long day care. Much of the principles are the same, but there are some important differences.
Services eligible for community preschool funding are not-for-profit community preschools and mobile preschools. For the use of this article, we will just collectively call them preschools.
Start Strong funding for preschools is available to children aged 3 and over in a preschool program (no CCS).
Community preschools will receive 2 kinds of funding via Start Strong:
Fee Relief Payments
Funding is administered each quarter, starting July 2023 for the July-September quarter.
Program Payments - up to $7,466 per child
Program payments help with operating costs, including staff wages and educational resources. They are based on:
Enrolments data is used to work out how much funding is given per child, based on the number of hours they are enrolled per week (15 or more hours will receive 100% of the funding, whereas less hours means less funding).
Socio-economic information is used to either increase or decrease the funding given per child, by giving services in lower socio-economic areas more funding.
There is also additional funding in the form of equity loadings and additional loadings.
Equity loadings give extra funding per child based on certain characteristics, such as children with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, from low income families, or with disability or additional needs.
Additional loadings include payments given to services based in regional or remote areas. See a full list of funding requirements here.
If a service doesn't utilise their program payments, they have to give it back to the department.
Fee Relief Payments - up to $4,220 per child
Fee relief payments are meant to be passed onto families to give free or low cost preschool.
Enrolment data is used to determine costs, based purely on hours enrolled across the year.
The fee relief payments are administered each term to families.
Some services may also be eligible for a Service Safety Net, which is a payment of up to $149,320/yr.
If a service doesn't use fee relief payments, they should try to pass it onto families to take off any additional fees, and then towards operating costs (in line with the program payment).
For more information on Community Preschool Funding, please see here.
Start Strong for Long Day Care
Funding for LDC is slightly different to community preschool funding.
The funding is only available to children aged 4 and over who are enrolled in a preschool program in LDC, and listed on the Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS).
Funding will come in each quarter, starting in January for the January-March period.
Similarly, it consists of Program Payments & Fee Relief Payments.
Program Payments - up to $1,440 per child
LDC services will get $960 for each child enrolled over 600 hours in the year, or $643 for those enrolled less than 600 hours. There is also an additional 50% loading based on being in a low socio-economic area and/or children being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Fee Relief Payments - $2,110 per child
Unlike other kinds of funding under Start Strong, fee relief payments to LDCs aren't based on enrolled hours. Services will receive a flat fee of $2,110 per child.
They will administer this each week, by giving a discount of $2,110 divided by the number of weeks in operation. This will not affect CCS.
If a child leaves the service throughout the year, the remaining fee relief will be given to the next enrolled child who takes their place.
To find out more about LDC Start Strong Funding, please see here.
What Providers Need to Do
Firstly, providers should comply by:
Opting into the Start Strong program via ECCMS
Collecting consent forms from families upon enrolment
When calculating funding, providers are required to provide reporting (similar to census) to the department that outlines relevant information. They don't need to do this initially, as data was taken from a week in May 2022 to calculate next quarter's funding.
When administering funding, fee relief payments should be made available on the invoice to families, and receipts for spending in line with program payments should be kept to show compliance.
What You Can Expect to Change in OWNA
Changes to invoices to show Start Strong Funding fee relief
Building the report necessary to send data for calculating funding
Ability to add Start Strong Fee Relief discounts/credits to family accounts