Early Learning Sustainability Fund
We know that COVID-19 has impacted the viability of some early learning services. The Government has put in place an Early Learning Sustainability Fund to support licensed or certificated services that were hardest hit, where they are a crucial part of the network. The fund is not to guarantee all early learning services remain in business. Funding cannot be provided on an indefinite basis, but this fund will provide a further back-stop.
About the Fund
We know that COVID-19 has impacted the viability of some early learning services. To date, the Government has cushioned some of the financial impacts by providing certainty of ECE subsidy funding over the past two funding periods, and through more general business support, such as the wage subsidy. The sustainability fund is another form of support to the early learning sector, to support those services hardest hit, where they are a crucial part of the network.
The fund is to ensure sufficient capacity remains, particularly for services in low socio-economic areas or services that specifically cater for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Funding is application based. Providers will need to provide a range of information, including detailed financial and attendance information as part of their applications.
The funding criteria is targeted to support the viability of services in areas of greatest need– for example in the provision of services in remote locations, or towns and suburbs where parents and caregivers have less early learning options.
Specific criteria has been set which providers need to meet for applications to be considered. Services also need to include detailed financial and attendance information as part of their applications.
Funding is available if it will help achieve the following:
- safeguarding the immediate and continuing availability of early learning provision, particularly for children of parents who need to work or undertake study and retraining;
- ensuring sufficient early learning capacity is available to support labour market participation as employment recovers; and
- supporting the viability and diversity of services in low socio-economic areas or services that specifically cater for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Early Learning Sustainability Fund is only available to licensed or certificated early learning services that do not rely on an au pair model.
Providers will need to include detailed financial and attendance information as part of their application. Services will be assessed against the following:
- the funding need must relate to a specific service, not the consolidated finances of a provider operating multiple early learning services;
- the nature of the service’s licensing and funding history;
- other avenues have been explored to address financial difficulty, including rescaling of the service’s operation;
- the service plays a key role in meeting the equity needs of the area the service operates in;
- there is insufficient capacity for other comparable services in the immediate catchment to take existing or future enrolments for that service; and
- the financial situation of the service indicates that closure is the most likely outcome, if additional support is not received.
Applicants will be required to furnish sufficient information to assist with application assessment. This is likely to include:
- the reason/s why financial support is required;
- the nature and level of support required;
- evidence of need for support, including the service’s immediate pre-COVID-19 formal financial statements and enrolment levels;
- a description of what other means of support or sustainability actions have been explored and the outcomes from this;
- a statement of the impact on parents and prospective parents of service closure, for example, the service’s understanding of excess capacity in the local area; and
- a statement on any aspects of the service that are unique to provision offered in the local area, including its contribution to providing equitable provision in the catchment.
Additional information may be requested to ensure the Ministry can adequately assess eligibility. The Ministry will also consider information and data it holds about the service’s licensing and funding history, for example audited financial accounts, complaints and incidents.
The Ministry will approve applications in the first instance. Any approved funding may be paid in a lump-sum or in instalments, and there are likely to be conditions attached to its use.
The second round of applications is now open. The second round will close on 30 April 2021.
For all fund enquiries, please contact EarlyLearning.Sustainability@education.govt.nz
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