Are you thinking about starting up an after school or holiday programme?
This article outlines the main considerations for an OSCAR start up. There are some important questions to ask at the early stages and we will also offer some practical advice, starting with a few commonly misunderstood aspects of the OSCAR sector.
Looking at all this, the OSCAR sector can appear to have very little “red tape” and this has encourged services to open in a wide range of communities. Unfortunately there are also OSCAR start ups that within 2 years are no longer running. So even if you have key elements like a venue and suitable staff already in place we recommend that you think carefullty about some important questions:
Does my community need an OSCAR service?
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 31, states: "That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child ..." When children have access to good quality out of school experiences, the whole of our society benefits.
There are many good reasons why your community might need an after school or holiday programme.
OSCAR (Out of School Care and Recreation) is just one possible model for making a positive vision for children into a reality. Being an "OSCAR service" usually means becoming "MSD Accredited” under the Ministry of Social Development's Standards for OSCAR services. However, you can run children's programmes after school and in the holidays without becoming MSD Accredited – it is a voluntary process. MSD Accreditation is explained further here.
So formal MSD Accreditation may or may not be on the horizon. You may have a facility in mind and even have the perfect person to run your programme – maybe yourself. Great! At this point it is a good idea to look holistically at some fundamental factors that are critical to the success of any OSCAR service:
If you find other similar services on offer already in your community, we recommend that you give careful consideration to what benefit there would be in opening another similar service. OSCAR services operate on very tight budgets. While they strive to deliver a professional service, in purely financial terms they are seldom seen as lucrative “businesses”. The arrival of a new programme serving the same community - while possibly good for parent choice – can end up harming the sustainability of all services in that location.
Successful start-ups usually find real gaps in provision and work from there. Keep in mind that, while surveys and feedback from potential users of the programme might give some indication of demand, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of demand until your service is up and running.
As you start to get a better picture of the needs in your community, you can make some assessment of its feasibility. Other factors include:
Refer to this link for an outline of a simple feasibility assessment. Some of these topics are discussed further below.
What kind of programme could I offer?
Programmes can come in many shapes, sizes and characteristics:
Your basic service operation will largely take shape according to the needs that you identify in your community. It will be helpful to get feedback from families that might use your service. Useful local networks to tap into could include schools, early childhood facilities and other local groups such as churches and parent groups.
It is also very likely that once children start attending they will have some everyday input into what activities the programme should offer. Regional OSCAR networks also have a great deal of expertise and ideas for how to organise your daily programme. For holiday programmes we recommend OSCN’s Holiday Programme Survival Guide.
What about before school care?
Demand for before school care services is generally lower than that for after school care, however those parents are often in difficult circumstances and looking hard for options. After school operators tend to take a cautious approach to adding a before school programme, especially if they have MSD Accreditation which usually requires a minimum of 2 staff to be on site at all times. (A limited exemption to the 2 staff requirement can be applied for in some circumstances.) There can also be difficulties engaging staff (paid or unpaid) for limited and early hours.
What about the legal aspects? What do I need to know?
The OSCAR sector is not governed by any specific regulations. An operator of an after school or holiday programme will need to comply with relevant legislation such as the Vulnerable Children Act, Health and Safety at Work Act, Employment Relations Act, Privacy Act etc. There are also "duty of care" obligations to be considered when assuming the care of children.
If I decide to not obtain MSD Accreditation, what policies and forms should I still have in place?
Even if you don’t apply for MSD Accreditation, the MSD Standards provide a useful set of guidelines. The main standard is the MSD Level 3 Social Sector Accreditation Standard. The practical service requirements for OSCAR are outlined in the "OSCAR Specialist Standard", which are a separate attachment to the main standard.
The requirements for OSCAR in the MSD standards include:
If you are getting ready for your first day, you might find this FAQ article useful as it covers some of the basic paperwork and systems that you should have in place. For other helpful “first day” advice, we recommend OSCN’s Holiday Programme Survival Guide.
How are OSCAR services funded?
Some programmes are fully funded by fees and have entirely paid staff. Others operate on a mix of fee income, grants, donations (e.g. use of facilities at no charge) and voluntary staff. Work and Income will subsidise fees for eligible parents if they attend an MSD Accredited service, so this may offset part of the cost for some parents.
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) contributes grants to over 700 organisations that provide OSCAR services. The programmes must be approved under the MSD Level 3 Social Sector Accreditation Standards and meet other operation criteria. These grants are not usually open for new programmes, as the funds are entirely allocated to on-going contracted providers. Consideration of new services for this funding is at the discretion of MSD, should funds become available.
OSCAR services may also be eligible for other grants and funding assistance but information on these sources of funding is best obtained through your own local and regional funding information networks e.g. local councils, Department of Internal Affairs etc.
There are more FAQs at the Ask OSCAR page
If you can’t see the answer you need, feel free to make contact here.
On this page
Are you starting up an after school or school holiday programme?
We explain some basic steps and help you to answer some important questions:
What is the need?
Is the OSCAR model
Will my programme
What standards and