Free Kinder will be available for both 3 and 4-year-old kindergarten programs from 2023. All early childhood education and care providers that deliver a funded kindergarten program in Victoria are eligible to receive Free Kinder funding from 2023, subject to meeting specified terms and conditions.
Free Kinder supports families to access a funded kindergarten program by:
- providing a free 15-hour program to four-year-old children enrolled at a sessional service
- providing a free 5-to-15-hour program to three-year-old children enrolled at a sessional service (subject to the length of the funded program offered)
- offsetting the funded kindergarten program component of parent fees for three and four-year-old children enrolled at a long day care service.
All children enrolled in a funded kindergarten program at a participating service are eligible for Free Kinder from 2023.
In line with existing policies for per capita funding, children must only receive Free Kinder funding at one service. If a child attends more than one service that offers a funded kindergarten program (e.g. a sessional service for some days and a long day care service on other days), the family must nominate which service they will receive their funded kindergarten program and therefore their Free Kinder funding.
DET will make Free Kinder payments to participating service providers, not directly to families. These payments will be made through the Kindergarten Information Management System (KIMS) as regular payments to ensure participating services can offer a free program.
DET will actively monitor compliance with the terms and conditions that service providers agree to when opting into Free Kinder. DET, or an organisation engaged to monitor compliance on behalf of DET, may seek information and documents from service providers as part of an assurance process to ensure the full benefits are being passed on to parents and that all Free Kinder funding is being used appropriately and conditions are being met.
Eligibility Criteria For Sessional Services
Funded sessional kindergarten service providers accessing this funding are required to:
- offer a free 15-hour kindergarten program for four-year-old enrolments and a free kindergarten program of between 5 and 15 hours for three-year-old enrolments
- not charge any compulsory out-of-pocket fees or levies to families, except for cost recovery for one-off excursions (i.e. entry and transport costs) for children not eligible for KFS
- refund any parent fees that have already been paid for 2023 (excluding any agreed voluntary donations)
- maximise use of licensed capacity as required to meet the demand for three- and four-year-old enrolments
- spend all additional funding in line with acceptable uses of kindergarten funding, including promoting increased participation and/or enhancing program quality.
Eligibility Criteria For Long Day Care Programs
In addition to other requirements outlined, long day care service providers that opt into Free Kinder are required to do the following for integrated (CCS funded) programs:
- apply standard fees across the service for all kindergarten-age enrolments (three- and four-year-old) to ensure that children enrolled in a kindergarten program are not charged higher fees in comparison to children that are not attracting kindergarten funding
- directly offset the full $2,000 payment from the fees of parents with children receiving their funded kindergarten program at the centre (service providers are not required to separately calculate and record the cost of the kindergarten hours separately for integrated programs)
- apply the fee offset regularly (e.g., fortnightly or monthly) and clearly indicate the offset amount (labelled Victorian Government Free Kinder offset) on parent invoice statements
- use any surplus funding on improvement efforts for the funded kindergarten program, such as improving quality and supporting the engagement of families for the minority of cases where parents are charged less than $2,000 in out-of-pocket fees for the duration of the kindergarten year.
For more detailed information, please read the following: Free Kinder Guidelines For Services 2023