Help us keep childcare fair
Thank you for helping us keep childcare fair.
Following valuable input from the community, we have introduced an updated Priority of Access Policy. You can view the updated policy here.
The updated policy helps ensure that our childcare and kindergarten places are offered to families with the greatest need.
In February and March 2019 we hosted a survey to check the level of support for the policy and to help us understand different community perspectives. You can view a summary of the feedback here. This informed several changes to the policy and these improvements are summarised here.
- What is the purpose of the Priority of Access Policy?
Childcare and kindergarten services provide important education and care, while allowing parents and guardians to attend to essentials like work, study and medical appointments. The purpose of our proposed Priority of Access Policy is to ensure that early childhood places are offered first to children and families with the greatest need.
- Who will receive priority under the proposed updated policy?
The proposed policy will assist children and families facing various challenges and hardships, with the top priority offered to children at risk of serious abuse or neglect. The policy also prioritises people with disability or chronic illness, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, and refugees and asylum seekers. The policy is also designed to favour families living in Yarra, and children with siblings already attending our services. See below for the full descending list of priorities for childcare (List 1) and 4-year old kindergarten (List 2).
LIST 1: Childcare
Applications for childcare (long day care, occasional care, casual care, and out of school hours care) will be prioritised as follows:
CATEGORY 1: A child at risk of serious abuse or neglect including those in receipt of additional childcare benefit.
CATEGORY 2: A child in need of priority care due to sudden change of circumstances (e.g. death of an immediate family member, loss of accommodation due to fire/natural disaster)
CATEGORY 3: A child of a single parent who satisfies, or of both parents who satisfy, the Child Care Subsidy activity test through work, training, volunteer and/or study.
CATEGORY 4: Any other child.
Within each of the four categories listed above, priority will be given to:
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children.
- Children with additional needs, defined as children who require additional assistance in order to fully participate in kindergarten; require a combination of services which are individually planned; have an identified specific disability or developmental delay.
- Families that include a person with a disability diagnosis.
- Families that include a person who has a diagnosis of a chronic or serious health issue.
- Children of single parents
- Families on low incomes as defined by the Child Care Subsidy highest subsidy threshold
- Asylum seeker and refugee children
- Children whose family resides in Yarra
- Siblings of children enrolled in the same Children’s Service.
LIST 2: 4-year old kindergarten
Applications for 4-year old kindergarten will be prioritised as follows:
CATEGORY 1: Children at risk of abuse or neglect, including children in out of home care.
CATEGORY 2: Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children.
CATEGORY 3: Asylum seeker and refugee children.
CATEGORY 4: Children eligible for the Kindergarten Fee Subsidy.
CATEGORY 5: Children with additional needs, defined as children who: require additional assistance in order to fully participate in kindergarten; require a combination of services which are individually planned; have an identified specific disability or developmental delay.
Once the above criteria above has been applied, the following additional criteria will be considered:
- Siblings of children enrolled in the same Yarra Children’s Service.
- Children whose family resides in Yarra.
- How does the proposed updated policy differ from the previous version?
The proposed changes to the Priority of Access Policy can be summarised as:
The policy now notes that a child may be asked to leave their place in one of our early childhood services if a child of higher need (e.g. at serious risk of abuse of neglect) requires it. Note: We anticipate that this would be extremely rare, and we would work with all parties to try to find a place for both children.
New priority categories:
- “A child in need of priority care due to a sudden change of circumstances (e.g. death of an immediate family member, loss of accommodation due to fire/natural disaster)”.
- “Families in which a primary carer is a person who has a diagnosis of a chronic or serious health issue”.
- “Asylum seeker and refugee children”.
Deleted priority categories:
- “Families from a non-English speaking background”. (It was considered that many children in this category did not necessarily require additional support. The new “Asylum seeker and refugee children” is considered to be a more targeted and effective approach.
- “Socially isolated families”. (It was considered that this category was too ambiguous and that its intent could be accommodated in other categories).
“Families which include a disabled person” has been clarified and split into two categories of descending priority:
- “Children with additional needs, defined as children who: require additional assistance in order to fully participate in education and care service; require a combination of services which are individually planned; have an identified specific disability or developmental delay.”
- “Families which include a person with a disability diagnosis.”
- What services and providers will the policy apply to?
The policy will apply to early childhood services delivered by Council or delivered by a third party operating from a Council building.
- What consultation has taken place so far?
Earlier this year, we began a review of the policy, consulting with 10 local early childhood service providers. These discussions informed the proposed updated policy that we are now seeking community feedback on.
- What changes were made to the draft policy following community consultation?
1. Following the community consultation, additional changes to the draft policy have been updated.
(a) Priority 1 has been changed to include an expanded definition from “A child at risk of serious abuse or neglect including those in receipt of additional childcare benefit” has been altered to include:
(i) A child at risk of serious abuse or neglect including:
- children in receipt of additional childcare benefit;
- children in Out of Home Care; and
- children in situations of family violence.
(b) Priority 2 has changed from “a sudden change of circumstances” to a “serious change of circumstances” to include families that have a change of circumstances that takes time to resolve. Examples of this include court hearings and cancer treatment”. The examples in the priority have been extended to include these;
(c) The advice “Families that are meeting priority 1 and priority 2 and encouraged to contact children’s services to discuss assistance directly with the team. “ has been inserted into the policy to ensure the family is assisted as quickly as possible;
(d) The secondary priority categories have been broken up into “tiers” to better reflect the weighting assigned;
(e) Additional priority added “Children whose family work or study in Yarra”;
(f) Removal of the caveat:
“A child care service may require a Priority 4 child to vacate a place to make room for a child in a higher priority group. They can only do so if the parents are:
(i) notified when their child first entered care that the service follows this policy
(ii) given at least 14 days’ notice of the need for their child to vacate”;
(g) The kindergarten priority sub category of “Children whose family or carer” resides in Yarra has had carer removed to ensure that residents are prioritised over non-residents; and
(h) Adding to the Kindergarten Priority of Access sub category “Children who have engaged in a Yarra pre-kindergarten program or long day care in the year before kindergarten”.
2. Community feedback illustrates the importance of explaining the how the policy works and how it is implemented. Work has already commenced on this including:
(a) A cumulative weighting system to ensure the total of the lower scored priority categories cannot total more than the next highest category (category 3). The weighting scored will be used to allocate places to children on the registration list. The weightings will provide a clear scoring system allocating places to families in order of priority;
(b) Recommendation in the policy and promotion that families in priority categories 1 & 2 should contact Children’s Services for support fast-tracking the application process;
(c) A roll out of a parent portal to compliment the central registration system;
(d) A review of the administration processes to:
(i) reduce lag time between a vacancy and allocation;
(ii) keep families better informed of how their application is progressing; and
(iii) better promote and explain how the Priority of Access works.