20 Hours ECE

Find out about 20 Hours ECE – it can help you with the cost of early childhood education.

How it works

The Government subsidises all children who attend early learning services.

20 Hours ECE is a higher funding subsidy.

It means that if your child is 3, 4 or 5 year old and goes to an early learning service or kōhanga reo that offers 20 Hours ECE, the cost can be fully subsidised for up to 6 hours a day and up to 20 hours a week.

You can find more information on funding rates in the Ministry's funding handbook.

ECE Funding Handbook – Education in New Zealand(external link)

You can choose to use as many or as few hours of 20 Hours ECE as you want, up to 6 hours a day and 20 hours a week.

Your child’s early learning service or kōhanga reo may, however, have a minimum number of hours or days of enrolment as part of their policy.

How to apply

Check whether your child’s early learning service or kōhanga reo offers 20 Hours ECE.

If your child is 3, 4 or 5, you can apply for 20 Hours ECE when you enrol your child at the early learning service or kōhanga reo – or you can do it just before your child turns 3 if they are already enrolled.

Fill in the enrolment agreement at the early learning service or kōhanga reo. The agreement must include an ‘attestation’, where you write and sign for the days and hours you are claiming as 20 Hours ECE. 20 Hours ECE cannot be claimed until you have completed the attestation.

You can choose which hours you want to claim for 20 Hours ECE – it can be for any hours that your child is enrolled.

As children must attend school from the age of 6, the last day that 20 Hours ECE can be claimed is the day before your child’s sixth birthday.

The subsidy is paid directly to the early learning service or kōhanga reo. You don’t have to apply separately to the Ministry of Education.

If your child goes to more than one early learning service or kōhanga reo

If your child goes to more than one early learning service or kōhanga reo, you can split the hours between them so long as it’s not more than 6 hours a day and 20 hours a week in total.

Anyone can apply

If you have a 3 or 4 year old, or a 5 year old child who is not enrolled at primary school, you can apply for 20 Hours ECE. This is regardless of your income, whether you or your child is a New Zealand resident or citizen, or any other reason.

Finding an early learning service or kōhanga reo

Find out what is available in your area:

Find an early learning service or school

Early childhood education at home

If you have an educator looking after your child at home (theirs or yours), you can still apply for 20 Hours ECE.

To do this, the educator must be part of a licensed home-based early learning service. The Ministry of Education pays the early learning service, not the individual educator.

Changing your child’s hours

If you change the number of hours your child is at their early learning service or kōhanga reo, you must update your enrolment agreement and attestation.

You should also do this if your child is going to be away for a time.

Changing your child’s early learning service or kōhanga reo during the school holidays

If your child’s early learning service or kōhanga reo closes for the school holidays, you can use the 20 Hours ECE at another early learning service or kōhanga reo.

You’ll need to record on the new enrolment form how many hours and days your child will be at the early learning service or kōhanga reo, and which hours will be covered by 20 Hours ECE.

Extra fees

Your child’s early learning service or kōhanga reo can charge their normal enrolment fees, if they have any. They cannot charge extra fees for setting up 20 Hours ECE.

The early learning service or kōhanga reo can charge fees for hours that are not covered by 20 Hours ECE. For example, if your child is at the early learning service or kōhanga reo for 7 hours in a day, and 6 of them are 20 Hours ECE, they can charge for one extra hour.

Optional charges and donations

An early learning service or kōhanga reo can ask you to pay optional charges, and they can ask for a donation. It’s up to you whether you pay these.

Optional charges must be for the actual costs of providing extra items or services. If you agree to pay optional charges then services can enforce payment. You can change your mind and stop paying optional charges. Talk to your service about this. You will need to change your enrolment form.  

Donations can be requested but payment cannot be enforced. In some instances you can apply to Inland Revenue for a donation tax credit: 

Tax credits for donations – Inland Revenue(external link)

MSD’s Childcare Subsidy or Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment and 20 Hours ECE

The Childcare Subsidy is for parents whose income is below a certain level. It helps to pay for childcare costs. 

The Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment (GCAP) is for parents under the age of 20 in full-time education, training or work-based learning.  

Sometimes, you can receive a mix of both the subsidy or GCAP and 20 Hours ECE. This can happen if your subsidy or GCAP is for more than 20 hours a week. For example, if you are entitled to 30 hours Childcare Subsidy and you choose to claim 20 Hours ECE, then you could receive the Childcare Subsidy for the remaining 10 hours.

The Childcare Subsidy or GCAP cannot be used for the same hours as 20 Hours ECE. The exception is in home-based services where the subsidy or GCAP can be used to pay the home-based educator top-up payment.

The Childcare Subsidy is looked after by Work and Income. To find out more, visit the website or call the contact centre.

Childcare Subsidy – Work and Income(external link)

Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment – Work and Income(external link)

Freephone (NZ only): 0800 559 009(external link)

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