Changes to the Children's Services Act

The Children’s Services Act 1996 has changed

Early childhood services in Victoria are regulated either under two different regimes.

The changes simplify licensing arrangements for providers and ensure more consistent minimum standards across the two regulatory regimes.

Objectives and guiding principles

The Children's Services Act 1996 (the Act) has adopted the objectives and guiding principles used in the National Law with a focus on quality educational and developmental outcomes, and the safety, health and wellbeing of children.

Terminology and roles of key personnel

The CS Act retains the term ‘children’s service’ so it is clear these services are separate to the NQF education and care services.

Other terminology in the CS Act has changed to the terms used in the NQF. For example:

  • licensees have become approved providers
  • licences have become service approvals
  • licensee representatives and responsible persons have become persons with management or control – each approved provider will need to appoint one or more person(s) with management or control responsible for managing the delivery of the service
  • primary nominees have become nominated supervisors
  • accepted nominees and approved nominees have become persons in day-to-day charge
  • the term ‘proprietor’ has become redundant.

Licensing and approvals

The licensing structure, and 'fit and proper' requirements under the CS Act has aligned with the NQF terminology and processes:

  • Fixed-term licences have been replaced with ongoing service approvals
  • Annual fees payable by invoice replace licence renewals on application and payment of the relevant fee. In 2020 no annual fee will be payable.
  • The new 'fit and proper' requirements for people operating a children’s service are now more comprehensive and explicit. For example, the applicant’s past conduct under other relevant laws will now be considered.
  • An approved provider will be able to operate multiple services under the CS Act using, a single provider approval.
  • The two-step process for approval of premises has been replaced with a one-step integrated process for service approval, as in the National Law. This enables all relevant consideration of all relevant matters about the service to be considered when the application is complete.
  • Service approvals are now transferable between approved providers, (subject to approval by the regulatory authority) This aims to increase flexibility for approved providers.
  • All existing approved providers under the National Law will be eligible to operate a children’s service without the need to separately apply for a provider approval under the CS Act.

Operational requirements for services in the Act

All basic requirements to operate a children’s service have now been aligned with the National Law. For example,  approved providers under the Act are required to have to appoint nominated supervisors and persons in day-to-day charge of services. While these roles are fundamentally the same as the previous roles, there are more explicit requirements in the law on what to consider when appointing these individuals. (See also Terminology and roles of key personnel.)

Previously, the licensee, a responsible person or nominee had to be physically present at the service. Under the amended Act, neither the approved provider nor nominated supervisor must be present at the service, but there must be a person in day-to-day charge (PIDTDC) present

You can visit the Reform of Children's Services Law and Regulations page for more details about the new regulatory requirements proposed.

Requirement for educational program

The amended Act has strengthened the requirements in relation to the educational or recreational program. Like services under the NQF, it must now be based on an approved on an approved learning framework.

This is strengthened by aligning it with the National Law requirement to deliver a program based on an approved learning framework.

The program needs to reflect the nature of the education and care provided at the service and how long the children attend. Information and resources help services develop programs appropriate for their service are available. These will continue to be updated on the Early Childhood Update page as well as Resources for Professionals working in the early childhood sector.

Educators’ guides are currently available to support the national approved learning frameworks, including resources to support the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.

Educators’ guides are currently available to support the national approved learning frameworks, including resources to support the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.

Compliance and enforcement

The monitoring and enforcement provisions in the CS Act are now aligned with their equivalent provisions in the National Law. These include the option of an enforceable undertaking where the provider enters into a binding agreement to undertake actions to bring them back into compliance. This provides a more flexible alternative to prosecution.

Offences and penalties

The offences and penalties in the Act have been aligned as closely as possible with those in the National Law.

Offences

Aligning the Act with the National Law has introduced some new offences, like operating a children’s service without a ‘nominated supervisor’. However, other offences remain the same. For example, it is currently an offence under both the Act and the National Law to inadequately supervise children.

Penalties

The Act continues to express penalties in penalty units, whereas the National Law expresses them in dollar amounts.

Alignment with the National Law means that an offence will carry a different maximum penalty for individuals and corporate bodies. In most cases, the new maximum penalties are lower for individuals and higher for corporate bodies.

View the penalty amounts

Exemptions from regulatory requirements and service waivers

Previously, a licensee could apply for an exemption from a provision in the Act. Only the Minister could grant an exemption.

Under the amended Act there are certain requirements for which a service waiver or temporary waiver may be available – these are specified in the Regulations.

Applying for a waiver is a more streamlined process than the previous process of applying for an exemption—making it easier both for services to apply and for the Regulatory Authority to decide the application.

To minimise the impact of the changes for service providers, transitional arrangements ensure that any service that was exempt from a requirement under the Act or Regulations before 17 May 2020 has six months to apply for a service waiver in respect of the equivalent requirement under the revised Act, that is, until 17 November 2020.

Approved associated children’s services

The approved associated children’s service (AACS) model enables an approved provider to operate services under both the NQF and the Children's Services Act at the same premises, under a single NQF service approval. This model made it easier for a provider operating services under the differing requirements of the two regulatory regimes.

Following alignment of the two regulatory regimes, AACSs in Victoria will be phased out by 2022. Approved providers under the NQF who currently hold a service approval and operate an AACS will be able to:

  • operate the entire service under the NQF service approval (with appropriate service conditions and/or waivers, if required), so that both the existing NQF service and the AACS become regulated under the NQF; or
  • apply for a separate service approval under the CS Act, which relates only to their AACS.

We will work with affected providers for each AACS individually to establish appropriate arrangements during this two-year interim period.

Transitional arrangements

To minimise the impact of the changes for service providers, the following transitional arrangements apply:

  • Where a service is exempt from a requirement under the CS Act or Regulations (e.g. staff-to-child ratios) it has six months (until 16 November 2020) to apply for a service waiver in respect of the equivalent requirement under the CS Act (as amended)
  • provide processes for dealing with licence applications that are in progress when the reforms commence.

For more information about the transitional arrangement timeline, you can visit our Implementation page.

Resources

Enquiries and support

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