The approved provider of an early childhood service, you have the primary legal responsibilities for the safety, care and education, under the National Regulations, of children enrolled. Hence, approvals are required from both the Australian Government as well as state and territory governments. The following article provides information on Approved Provider Meaning and Responsibilities, Types Of Approval, Approved Provider Under The National Regulations, Application Process and more.
Approved Provider Meaning
An Approved Provider is the only one who has the authority to operate all preschool or long daycare services. Therefore, this can be an individual, a body corporate, an eligible association, a partnership or an entity such as a local council or church organisation.
An approved provider is one who is approved under the Family Assistance Law to provide child care in one or more of its services and receives and passes on Child Care Subsidy payments to eligible families to reduce the cost of child care. Such a person is also responsible for meeting certain obligations under both Commonwealth and state and territory laws. This includes obligations to:
- comply with Family Assistance Law
- comply with the National Law and National Regulations and all related state or territory laws involving the operation of a child care service.
- ensure the child care provider and relevant personnel (that is, persons with management or control of the provider and persons responsible for the day-to-day operations of the service) are fit and proper persons to have a role in the receiving and passing on of Child Care Subsidy payments
- ensure that background checks, including criminal history and working with children checks, are carried out for relevant staff and educators.
Approved Provider Responsibilities
- As the approved provider, you have a primary legal responsibility under the National Law and National Regulations to ensure good governance and management of your service.
- As the approved provider, you have a primary legal responsibility under the National Law and Regulations in relation to staffing requirements at your service. Even when other service leaders may be on-site acting on your behalf, should non-compliance occur, you may still be held legally responsible.
- As the approved provider you are responsible for creating the vision for your service. A clear and compelling vision will underpin your service’s statement of philosophy, assist in the development of your Quality Improvement Plan, and can serve to inspire your service team.
- As the approved provider you are responsible for ensuring that a statement of philosophy is developed and that it informs and guides your service’s operations and educational programming and practice.
- As the approved provider you have a key role to play in helping to build and support your team.
- As an approved provider, it is a certainty that you will at some stage be implementing changes in your service or services. Change is inevitable and necessary as a stimulus for service growth and development.
Approved Provider Requirements
The Approved Provider must hold a Provider Approval granted under the Children (Education and Care Services) National Law.
As a result, this gives the Approved Provider permission to operate, and they are responsible for ensuring that the organisation or business fulfils its legal and regulatory obligations.
To participate in the delivery of an education and care service, you must be a "fit and proper person." You must routinely update your information regarding new members if you are a part of a firm or board. Additionally, these individuals may be asked to provide a variety of documents for evaluation to confirm that they are qualified to hold their posts. The "fitness" of a Provider may be reviewed at any time.
Child care Subsidy
Matters considered in determining whether someone is a fit and proper person to be involved in the administration of the Child Care Subsidy and the Additional Child Care Subsidy, include:
- evidence of activity that does not comply with criminal or civil law, including (but not limited to) activity related to children or indicating dishonesty or violence
- court proceedings and convictions or findings of guilt, including (but not limited to) activity related to children or indicating dishonesty or violence
- any past administrative decisions relating to a person’s suitability to be involved in childcare
- evidence of fraud or dishonesty
- the person’s history of managing public funds; and any past or current debts to the Commonwealth
- the person’s record of financial management, including any instances of bankruptcy, insolvency or external administration
- any potential conflicts of interest between managing or delivering the child care service and other business or financial interests of the person
- any other matter relevant to the suitability of the provider and their staff.
It is important to note that specified personnel must be fit and proper persons, whether or not they are required to use the Child Care Subsidy System.
Two Types Of Approval
It is important to understand the approval process very clearly since Australia has a dual regulatory system for the provision of child care. This is because the Australian Government as well as the state and territory governments have different roles and responsibilities. Thus the two types of approval needed are:
- National Law approval – This is the absolutely mandatory approval needed for a provider to operate and charge fees for childcare services in Australia.
- Family Assistance Law approval – this is needed to be able to receive and pass on Child Care Subsidy payments to eligible families to reduce the cost of child care.
It is important to note that providers approved under the National Law can operate and charge fees for child care even if they are not approved by the Australian Government under Family Assistance Law. However, a provider must be approved under Family Assistance Law for Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy to be claimable by families for care provided to children at the provider’s service.
What Does National Law Approval Entail
Providers cannot run childcare services unless they are approved under the National Law by the childcare regulatory authority in their state or territory. State and territory governments are responsible for ensuring providers are meeting standards for the safety, health and wellbeing of children and for the educational outcomes of children. State and territory governments do this through the National Quality Framework under the National Law and National Regulations.
To be approved under the National Law, providers and services must meet the requirements of the National Quality Framework, of which key aspects include:
- specified educator-to-child ratios so that each child receives the individual time and attention they need
- an approved learning framework to support each child’s learning and development
- educator qualification requirements so that educators are better able to lead activities that inspire children and help them learn and develop
- an assessment and rating system so that parents know the quality of early learning and child care is provided and can make informed choices.
There are a small number of services that do not fall under National Law and are excluded from the requirement to hold National Law approval. An example of these services is In-Home Care.
What Does Family Assistance Law Approval Entail?
To become an approved provider under Family Assistance Law, a provider must hold the required approvals or licences to provide child care in the state or territory in which each of its child care services operates. Providers can apply for approval under Family Assistance Law while they are undergoing assessment for National Law approval. The application for approval by the Australian Government will request provider and service approval numbers that providers will receive when they apply for National Law approval.
Who Can Apply?
Under Family Assistance Law, any of the following entities may apply for provider approval for one or more services that the provider operates or proposes to operate:
- Sole trader—an individual person who has legal capacity and/or authority to enter obligations.
- Partnership—a collection of entities (for example, made up of individuals, companies or other corporate bodies) where the control or management of the business is shared.
- Private company—a company registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission as Proprietary Limited (cannot raise funds from the public).
- Public company—a company registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission that is usually formed to raise or borrow public money by listing the company’s shares for trading on the Stock Exchange.
- Registered cooperative—a democratic organisation owned and controlled by its members for a common benefit. The name of a registered cooperative always includes the word ‘Cooperative’ or ‘Coop’ and ends with ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’.
- An Australian Government body—Australian Government bodies are not required to register their name or any name they trade under as a business name but may still wish to do so under some circumstances.
- State/territory government body - government bodies are not required to register their name or any name they trade under as a business name but may still wish to do so under some circumstances.
- Local council—as government bodies, local councils are not required to register a name or any name they trade under as a business name but may still wish to do so under some circumstances.
- Indigenous corporation—a corporation that is voluntarily registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006.
- Incorporated body or association—an entity that is separate from the individual member, is given legal status by state or territory legislation and will have a constitution or rules set out how it operates.
- Unincorporated body or association—an unincorporated body is not a separate legal entity from its members; it is simply a group of people who have agreed to come together to pursue a common purpose with club-like characteristics—for example, a sporting club, social club or trade union.
- A trustee - in its capacity as trustee of the trust but not the trust itself as a trust is not a legal entity. As part of the application for approval, the provider (trustee) must provide a copy of the trust deed.
Other requirements to apply to be an approved provider:
- a valid Australian Business Number, for all providers, including trustees acting in their capacity as a trustee; since approved providers will be responsible for receiving and passing on significant amounts of public funds in the form of child care fee assistance payments, it is necessary to clearly identify the legal entity as an organisation.
- Proof of financial viability for providers of a Large Centre Based Day Care provider. A provider is a Large Centre Based Day Care provider if it (or a group of related providers) operates 25 or more approved Centre Based Day Care services. The Secretary of the Department of Education may ask for additional information or supporting documentation to assess whether Large Centre Based Day Care providers meet this requirement.
The Application Process For Approval Under National Law
There are two ways you can apply for approval:
- One is by applying online after registering an account on the NQA IT System which offers the advantage of reduced processing times for lodging notifications and applications. Do bear in mind that the NSW and Victorian regulatory authorities only accept applications and notifications submitted online using the NQA IT System.
- The other way is to apply on paper usingPA01 the Application for provider approval as well as the PA02 Declaration of fitness and propriety forms.
In order to give your application for provider approval the best chances of going through, it helps to know what regulatory authorities will look for. Under National Law, Section 12-15, the regulatory authority will consider:
- if the applicant is a fit and proper person to provide an education and care service
- the applicant’s history of compliance or criminal history
- whether the applicant is bankrupt or other financial or medical matters which may limit their capacity to meet their obligations under the National Law.
Additionally, ‘Working with children Check’ legislation applies in all states and territories except for Tasmania. In Tasmania, registration to work with vulnerable people is required.
In general, the regulatory authority must make a decision within 60 calendar days of receiving a complete application. If a decision is not made within 60 calendar days, the application is taken to be refused. The regulatory authority must give the applicant written notice of its decision and the supporting reasons, within seven (7) calendar days of making the decision. A decision to refuse to grant a provider approval, or to grant provider approval subject to conditions, is a reviewable decision under National Law.
If granted, the regulatory authority must give the approved provider a copy of the provider approval, stating:
- the name of the approved provider
- if the approved provider is not an individual, the address of the principal office of the provider
- any conditions to which the approval is subject
- the date the provider approval was granted
- the provider approval number.
The Application Process For Approval Under Family Assistance Law
Applicants seeking approval to receive and pass on Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy will have to use the Provider Entry Point (PEP) to submit their application and supporting documents. Once approved, providers may choose to continue using the PEP to submit childcare data and retrieve payment information. However, they may also choose to use one of the approved childcare software products for these purposes. Every individual who needs to interact with the Child Care Subsidy System must:
- register an account and receive a Registration Authority Number
- undergo identity verification using identification documents, such as a Medicare card, passport or birth certificate. PRODA is the online system used to verify a person’s digital identity. Each person can only register one PRODA account in their name
Once the individual representing the provider has registered with PRODA, they need to use their PRODA username and password to log in to the PEP and start a new provider application.
After application: Once a complete application is received, the Department of Education will consider whether the application contains the information required for the department to undertake an assessment. However, there is no set time for the department to complete an application assessment. If the application is not complete, the department will notify the applicant that the application is incomplete but is not obliged to invite the applicant to submit the missing information and documents.
If a provider is approved with respect to one or more services, it will hold that approval subject to a range of conditions of approval set out in Family Assistance Law. Additional conditions may also be placed on approval on a provider-by-provider or service-by-service basis. To maintain approval, the provider must comply with all those conditions.
Assessment Information For Provider Approval - The following article provides information n information and assessment sessions, resources and links, tips and more!
Childcare Provider Handbook - The Child Care Provider Handbook is free and written for providers of early learning and child care. It details the requirements and responsibilities of childcare providers and services.