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Fees of all children in early-childhood education are subsidised by the Government; 20 Hours ECE is a higher funding subsidy for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds specifically.
The scheme can be accessed through any early-childhood service which offers it, for up to six hours a day and up to 20 hours a week.
Anyone is eligible, regardless of income, or if you or your child are a New Zealand resident or citizen.
You can choose to use as many, or as few, of the free hours as you want, but your provider may have a minimum number of hours and days as part of their enrolment policy.
To apply, simply confirm your child's early-childhood provider offers 20 Hours ECE, and complete an enrolment agreement stating the days and hours you are claiming. The subsidy is paid directly to the early-childhood provider.
If your child is cared for by an in-home educator, you can still apply for the subsidy, as long as they are part of a licensed home-based service.
The subsidy is paid directly to the service, not the individual educator.
Normal enrolment fees may still apply, though extra fees cannot be charged for setting up 20 Hours ECE; optional charges or donations, for providing extra items and services, can still be requested by your early-childhood provider; and you can be charged for any hours not covered by the scheme. For example, if your child is in care for 24 hours per week, you can be charged for the four hours above 20 Hours ECE.
If you have any questions about 20 Hours ECE, talk to your early-childhood provider, or visit the Ministry of Education's website www.parents.education.govt.nz