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Child care costs and Australian Government assistance

Child care costs can take a lot out of family budgets, so it’s worth finding out whether your family can get Australian Government assistance.

Factors that influence child care costs

The cost of child care for your family will depend on:

  • the type of child care you use
  • how many days a week your child needs care
  • the reason you use child care – for example, so you can work or study or have time to look after other children
  • the number of children you have in care
  • whether you can get government assistance with child care costs.

Child care costs can vary across services. For example, costs might depend on whether services:

  • charge fees for days children are away
  • charge fees and are closed for public holidays
  • supply things like meals and nappies.

Finding out about child care costs

If you’re interested in a child care service, it’s best to contact the service directly to ask about fees.

If you can get government assistance, your child care costs could be much lower than the fees you’re quoted.

Types of government assistance with child care costs

Depending on your situation, you might be able to get one or more of these forms of government assistance with child care costs:

  • Child Care Benefit (CCB)
  • Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Child Care Fee Assistance
  • Child Care Rebate (CCR).

Child Care Benefit (CCB)

The Child Care Benefit (CCB) helps cover the cost of eligible child care.

CCB-eligible care
Two categories of child care are eligible for the CCB:

  • CCB-approved child care
  • registered child care.

CCB-approved child care includes long day care, family day care, in-home care, occasional day care, outside school hours care and vacation care.

Registered child care is care provided by people who have completed a successful application and registered with the Australian Government Department of Human Services. These people can include grandparents, relatives, friends or nannies. Carers and teachers at private schools and preschools or kindergartens can also be registered carers in some cases.

Who can claim the CCB?
You can claim the CCB if you’re responsible for paying child care costs for a child. You could be a parent, foster parent, grandparent or kinship carer. To get the CCB, you or your partner must be an Australian resident (there are some exemptions).

How much CCB can you get?
The CCB for CCB-approved care depends on your income and other things like how many children you have in child care.

The CCB for registered care doesn’t depend on your income – the benefit is paid at a fixed amount per hour per child.

How much child care can I claim the CCB for?
If your child is in CCB-approved care, you can claim the CCB for up to 24 hours per week per child. You can claim for up to 50 hours per week per child if both you and your partner meet (or are exempt from) the ‘work, training, study’ test for CCB. To pass the test, you and your partner must have work-related commitments for at least 15 hours a week.

You can get the CCB for registered child care for up to 50 hours per child per week. To claim the CCB for registered care, both you and your partner must have undertaken work-related commitments some time in the week that care was provided (unless you’re exempt from this requirement).

If you’re a grandparent with primary care of your grandchildren, you can claim for up to 50 hours per week per child. If you’re a grandparent on an eligible income support payment, you might get Grandparent CCB. This is a higher rate of CCB, which covers the full cost of child care for up to 50 hours per child per week.

To get the CCB, you must ensure that your child’s immunisations are up to date, or you must have a valid medical exemption.

Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Child Care Fee Assistance

Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Child Care Fee Assistance helps with the cost of CCB-approved child care. JET Child Care Fee Assistance payments are made directly to the child care service on your behalf.

To get JET, you must be getting one of the following eligible income support payments:

  • Farm Household allowance
  • Parenting payment
  • Partner allowance
  • Widow allowance
  • Carer payment
  • Widow B pension
  • a means-tested ABSTUDY payment
  • Newstart allowance
  • Youth allowance (for job seekers)
  • Special benefit (in certain circumstances).

You must also be getting the maximum amount of CCB and have a Job Plan in place.

Child Care Rebate (CCR)

If you’re eligible, the Child Care Rebate (CCR) covers 50% of your out-of-pocket CCB-approved child care expenses, up to an annual limit, known as the ‘cap’. Your out-of-pocket expenses are the cost of your CCB-approved child care minus any CCB or JET Child Care Fee Assistance you get.

The CCR is not paid for registered child care.

To be eligible for the CCR, you must be eligible for the CCB. To get the CCR, you must put in a claim for the CCB, even if you’re not entitled to get any CCB payments because of your income.

The CCR isn’t income tested, but you and your partner must meet, or be exempt from, the ‘work, training, study test’ for CCR.

As the person responsible for paying child care costs, when you claim for the CCB you’re automatically assessed for the CCR. You don’t have to do two separate applications.

Child care assistance and immunisation

In January 2016, the Australian Government introduced a ‘No Jab, No Pay’ policy. This means that if a child isn’t fully immunised, parents can’t get the CCB, JET Child Care Fee Assistance or the CCR. A free national immunisation catch-up program is available for all children.

If you’re not sure about what or how much government assistance with child care costs your family might be able to get, you can call the Department of Human Services on 136 150. You can also use the Centrelink rate estimator.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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