Children playing, OSCAR promotion

Overview of approval process for Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) programmes

Please note: For information about the approval process for home-based Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) programmes, view here.

Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) programmes are for children aged from five to 13 (or children aged up to 18 years if they are eligible to receive a Child Disability Allowance).

OSCAR programmes are designed to provide care and recreation before school, after school, during school holidays, and away on camps. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) approval process is used to ensure that OSCAR programmes are appropriately managed and provide a safe and adequate care environment for all children who attend.

Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) approval changes

In December 2015 we let providers know that we had completed a review of the Level 3 OSCAR standards, and that we were trialling a new set of standards with a small group of providers. We’re now ready to roll out these standards and test them more widely.

The changes streamline our process by bringing OSCAR providers under the same assessment framework as other MSD providers.

Under the new process, OSCAR providers are required to meet:

  • Level 3 Social Sector Accreditation Standards, and
  • the new MSD Specialist Accreditation Standard: Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) Programmes.

Where applicable, OSCAR providers will also have to meet:

  • the MSD Specialist Accreditation Standard: Outdoor Pursuits and Camp Programmes for Children and Young People.

Some of the language MSD approvals use has changed and the OSCAR provider reports look different too.

The roll-out of the new standards will not affect your current approval status. Your assessor will explain how any changes will impact you when they are arranging your next review.

We want to make sure that the standards are fit-for-purpose and the changes are smoothly implemented.

We’re continuing to gather provider feedback on the changes, prior to finalising the standards in March, 2017.

If you would like to provide feedback, or if you have any questions or comments, please contact us:

or talk to a member of your local MSD Approvals team.

Summary of the approval process

The initial approval process can be summarised as:

  1. OSCAR provider seeks information from the MSD Approvals team.
  2. OSCAR provider forwards application and required documents to MSD Approvals.
  3. Assessor reviews application.
  4. Assessor visits to see whether programme policies and procedures and practices meet the standards, and look at facilities, equipment and other key documents.
  5. Assessor gives provider written advice if there are outstanding requirements.
  6. If required provider carries out further work to meet the Standards.
  7. Provider notified in writing of outcome of the assessment.
  8. Approval is either granted or declined.

If approval is granted

If approval is granted parents are able to apply for subsidies.

The MSD Approvals team usually reviews the programme every two years (unless the period is extended because of previous performance against the standards and an assessment of how your organisation is likely to perform in the future).

OSCAR funding

If you run and OSCAR programme and would like to be eligible to receive grant funding, your programme must be MSD approved.

Please note: Attaining MSD approval does not confer the right to a contract or the funding of a programme.

Approving and funding an OSCAR programme are separate functions within the Ministry. To find out more about OSCAR grant funding including eligibility criteria and how to apply, please see:

Or contact the Work and Income OSCAR team:

The approval process

This section gives an overview of the approval process from when you first decide to apply for approval through to the assessment decision.

First you should make sure:

  • your programme is able to operate in a way that meets all the standards
  • policies and procedures described in the standards are in place.

Next you will need to send an application form and specified documents to the MSD Approvals team in your region.

An approvals assessor will go through your application and set up a visit.

You can expect to have your site visit within six weeks of applying.

If your programme is already up and running you will need to demonstrate that your programme meets the standards:

  • through your written policies and procedures and other organisation or programme documents
  • through a site visit.

First the assessor will review your application including the documents you provided. Then the assessor will do a site visit where they will talk to staff and observe how the programme runs. They will also look at facilities,equipment and other important documents (eg Warrant of Fitness).

The assessor will give you feedback at the time of the site visit. If you do have to improve your programme the assessor will talk to you about this and follow up with a letter about what changes are required and timeframes for getting back to the assessor about the changes.

If your programme has not started operating yet, the assessor will review the documents you provide showing how the programme will run to determine if your organisation has the potential and ability to run a safe programme and meet all the standards. The assessor will do a site visit and talk to any available staff.

When your programme is approved you will receive a letter confirming the approval (usually within four weeks of the site visit).

Information regarding conditional approval for OSCAR providers

A number of providers seek MSD approval before they employ staff and establish the running of their programme.

Where it has been assessed that their policies, procedures and programme site meet the requirements a conditional approval will be granted. This conditional approval will remain in place for up to three months to allow the provider time to start running the programme.

The assessor will then observe the programme, review the staff files and confirm if a full approval can be granted.

Exemptions for operating a sole-charge OSCAR programme

Exemptions will only be made to operate an OSCAR programme with one staff member where the programme is able to provide assurance that staff and children's safety will be maintained.

Reviews of approval

From June 2012 the review cycles for most MSD approved OSCAR providers will be moved from a two year to a three-five year cycle.

Some programmes will however remain on a two year review cycle.

Move to a three year review cycle

All new providers who are able to demonstrate compliance with the standards will be placed on a three year review cycle.

Existing providers who are not part of the group who will stay on a two year cycle will be moved to a three year review cycle providers providing:

  • they have had at least two reviews of their compliance with the standards
  • they are able to demonstrate full compliance with the standards when the assessor completes the next review.

Move to a five year review cycle

To be moved to a five year review cycle a provider must:

  • have demonstrated full compliance with the standards over the last two reviews and
  • have had no complaints nor incidents requiring MSD intervention in the last three years and
  • be able to provide evidence of an effective quality assurance system and ongoing programme development.

Providers on a five year cycle will also be required to provide MSD Approvals with a self-review report during the third year of the review cycle.

Remain on a two year cycle

Some “higher risk” programmes will remain on a two year cycle.

These are:

  • Camps
  • Outdoor pursuits programmes
  • Providers with outstanding remedials or requirements.

Ceasing to operate an OSCAR programme

You may decide that you don’t want to keep providing your OSCAR programme. If so, let the MSD Approvals team know so that they can keep their records up-to-date and contact Work and Income about subsidies and grants so that you do not incur a debt. You will then relinquish your approval.

Suspending and/or revoking an approval

If an approved programme is no longer meeting the standards and is not properly run your approval may be suspended and/or revoked, under Regulation 26 of the Social Security (Childcare Assistance) Regulations 2004.

If serious concerns arise that the standards are not being met and the programme is not adequate your approval may be suspended while these concerns are being investigated.

The existence of ongoing concerns could result in your approval being revoked.

The programme provider is able to make submissions to MSD Approvals before a final decision is made. The final decision would then be given in writing.

The provider may be able to apply at a later date for approval when appropriate changes have been made.