New Children’s Services regulations

The new Children’s Services Regulations 2020 set out the new operational requirements for services, and provide the supporting details for the new processes in the Children’s Services Act 1996 .

The new Regulations came into effect on 17 May 2020 together with the changes to the Act.

The regulatory requirements will apply immediately to all new providers and new services approved from 17 May 2020.

For former licensed children’s services, the changes will be phased in over two years. The main operational changes (to requirements for staffing, premises and policies and procedures) will commence on 1 January 2022.

The new Regulations reflect the changes to the Act in the following areas:

  • Approval processes and service types
  • Staffing: educator to child ratios, and educator qualifications
  • Educational programs and relations with children
  • Indoor and outdoor space requirements
  • Safety, health and wellbeing of children
  • Policies, procedures and practices
  • Fees and waivers

Visit Engage Victoria to read about the consultation process undertaken before the Children’s Services Regulations 2020 were made.

Approval processes and service types

The Act changes the approval process for providers and services:

  • Providers will only have to apply for approval once, even for multiple services
  • All licences will now be become a perpetual service approval (the is no need to renew a service approval)
  • Service approvals will be transferable between approved providers, and end when they are surrendered or cancelled.

The Regulations prescribe the details of the new application processes for provider and service approvals.

The new Regulations streamline the former seven licence types into two new service types:

  • Limited hours service
    A service that provides education and care to each child for not more than 3 hours per day and 6 hours per week
  • Occasional care service
    All other services that are not Limited Hours services, with no limit on the hours children can be educated and cared for.

Visit our Implementation page to find out about the automatic conversion of all former licences to one of the two new service types.

Staffing requirements

Staffing requirements in the new Regulations have been aligned with the NQF, where appropriate, and apply immediately to all new services approved after 17 May 2020.

Former licensed children’s services will have until 1 January 2022 to comply with the new staffing requirements.

The terminology in the Act has changed from “staff member” to “educator”.

Educator to child ratios

The ratios in the new Regulations now align with those in the NQF. They support the safety, health and wellbeing of children, and promote quality education and care by allowing staff to effectively support each child’s learning, development and active engagement.

All services must have at least 1 educator whenever children are in attendance, and provide adequate supervision of children at all times.

There are simplified and clearer educator to child ratio requirements:

  • Children aged from, birth to under 36 months, 1:4
  • Children aged 36 months and over (not including children over preschool age), 1:11
  • Children over preschool age (enrolled in school), 1:15

There is now greater flexibility in how these ratios are counted and applied to mixed age groups. These ratios are now the same as in the NQF. Read about calculating the ratio.

Minimum staff requirements are now easier, changing from two staff members to at least one educator.

Educator qualifications

For Limited Hours services, all educators educating and caring for children must have a completed at least an approved Certificate III level Education and Care qualification.

For Occasional Care services – of the educators required to meet the required educator to child ratio, at least 50% must have, or be actively working towards an approved diploma level education and care qualification. All other educators required to meet the required educator to child ratio, must hold, or be actively working towards at least an approved Certificate III qualification .

Early childhood teacher requirement

Services that provide education and care to any child for more than 30 hours per week on average over any given 4-week period, must have an early childhood teacher in attendance for at least 50 per cent of the time the service is operating, or 20 hours per week (whichever is lower).

Approved qualifications

Approved qualifications are those approved by ACECQA.

Educators without approved qualifications whose historical minimum training was recognised under the 2009 Regulations will continue to have their training recognised. These educators undertook a specific bridging course instead of a Certificate III.

‘Actively working towards’ a qualification

Educators are considered ‘actively working towards’ a Certificate III level qualification if they are:

  • Enrolled in the course and have started study
  • Making satisfactory progress towards completion, AND
  • Meeting requirements to maintain enrolment

Educators are considered ‘actively working towards’ a Diploma level qualification if they:

  • Can satisfy all the above requirements, AND
  • Hold an approved Certificate III level qualification, OR
  • Have completed the approved Cert III units, OR
  • Have completed 30% of the units in an approved ECT qualification

Probationary period

For Occasional Care services educators who have not yet commenced study may be counted in educator to child ratios during their probationary period, for up to 3 months at one or more services operated by the approved provider. After this time they must be enrolled in at least a Certificate III qualification.

Students and volunteers

Students and volunteers may be counted in educator to child ratios if they are actively working towards an early childhood qualification. This includes students on placements in a service.

First aid qualifications

Services must ensure that at least 1 staff member or 1 nominated supervisor is in attendance at the service and immediately available in an emergency and

There is a person on the premises with an approved:

  • first aid qualification
  • anaphylaxis management training
  • emergency asthma management training

Asthma management training is not required for any services until 1 January 2022.

Educational Program documentation

The new Regulations set out the requirements for documenting child assessments or evaluations for delivery of educational program. This will involve:

  • Assessment of a child’s developmental needs, interests, experiences and participation and progress on outcomes
  • Consideration of the period of time that the child is being educated and cared for by the service and how the documentation will be used by educators
  • Ensuring information about the educational program is readily understandable and made available on premises
  • Providing information about the educational program to parents on request.

Read more about the requirement in the Act for the educational program to based on an approved learning framework.

Interactions and relationships with children

The Regulations have more explicit requirements for interactions with children, and relationships in groups.

Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure education and care is provided in a way that:

  • encourages children to express themselves and their opinions
  • gives children the opportunity to become self-reliant and develop self-esteem
  • always maintains the dignity and rights of each child
  • gives positive guidance and encourages acceptable behaviour
  • has regard to the family and cultural values, age, physical and intellectual development and abilities of each child being educated and cared for by the service

Reasonable steps must be taken to ensure:

  • children being educated or cared for by the service have opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other, and with staff members and volunteers at the service
  • there must be regard to the size and the composition of the groups in which children are educated and cared for

Indoor and outdoor space requirements

All children’s services must provide 3.25 square metres of indoor space per child.

Children’s services are no longer required to have a second babies room.

Limited hours services are not required to have an outdoor space. Occasional care services must provide 7 square metres of outdoor space per child. Former Limited Hours Type 2 services that do not have 7 square metres of outdoor space per child can operate under the Occasional care service type while maintaining the 5 hours per day and 15 hours per week limitation on providing education and care for any child.

Verandah space

Previously, a verandah space could only be calculated for outdoor space. Under the new regulations, a verandah space may be included in either an indoor and outdoor space calculation with the approval of the Regulatory Authority. However, it can be calculated for only one (either indoor or outdoor) of those spaces, not both.

Fencing requirements have changed and any outdoor space used by children at the children’s service premises must be enclosed by a fence or barrier that is of a height and design that children of preschool age or under cannot go through, over or under it.

Safety, health and wellbeing of children

Awareness of child protection law

All services must ensure that nominated supervisors and staff are aware of the existence of current child protection law and any obligations that staff may have under that law. This includes mandatory reporting for child protection, Child Safe Standards and Reportable Conduct.

Risk assessments and authorisations for excursions

The new regulations require more comprehensive considerations in risk assessments, and more detailed authorisations.

Medical conditions

Current requirements for policies and procedures in anaphylaxis management will now apply to all medical conditions. The medical conditions policy requirements include:

  • a medical management plan for each child with a medical condition
  • a risk minimisation plan for each child with a medical condition, in consultation with the child
  • the development of a communications plan for each child.

Policies and procedures

All new services approved after 17 May 2020 must have in place a comprehensive set of policies and procedures in place. 

For former licensed services, some additional policies and procedures have been added to previous requirements. These include:

  • health and safety requirements, including food and nutrition, water safety, sun safety and sleep
  • acceptance and refusal of authorisations (to ensure that all educators, staff and volunteers of a service are consistent in how authorisations are managed)
  • dealing with medical conditions
  • providing a child safe environment
  • interactions with children
  • governance and management of the service.

Former licensed children’s services have until 1 January 2022 to meet the new requirements. The previous requirements for policies and procedures, and documentation and information to be made available, will remain in place until then.

Resources and guidance on policies and procedures can be found at ELAA and ERCH.

Notifications

Notification requirements have been streamlined to align with the NQF and are required in the following instances:

  • Circumstances posing a risk to the safety health and wellbeing of children
  • Allegations of physical or sexual abuse
  • Complaints.

Services no longer need to notify the regulatory authority by phone and in writing; they are now required to notify only once, in writing within a specified timeline.

Fees

A new fee structure supports the new processes in the amended Act. These changes include:

  • licence renewal fees have been replaced by an annual service fee (however, the annual service fee is not payable in 2020)
  • fees for approvals process are simplified overall because there are now only two types of service, and fewer size brackets
  • there are fixed fees for new processes, such as an application for a service waiver
  • many previous fees are no longer required e.g. application for approval of new nominee
  • fees are consistent with and proportional to the fees under the NQF
  • fees recognise nature of sector—many not-for-profit and small services

View the new fee structure.

Under exceptional circumstances, the Regulatory Authority may waive, reduce, defer or refund any fee payable or paid to it under the Regulations.

Enquiries and support

For further information and assistance about the processes for transitioning services to the new requirements, contact our Enquiries and Support Team at: