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Social Sector Accreditation for OSCAR Services
(Previously MSD OSCAR Approval)

The OSCAR sector is not governed by any specific regulations, however OSCAR service must comply with relevant legislation (health and safety, employment, privacy etc.) The Social Sector Accreditation Standards are a set of voluntary operating requirements which are in place over a large proportion of the OSCAR sector. These standards include:

  • Staffing ratios and minimum staffing levels
  • Employment requirements such as background checking, police vetting
  • Health and safety requirements including emergency procedures and risk assessment
  • Enrolment, attendance and sign in/out procedures
  • Procedures to ensure children arrive safely from school to the programme

Link to the full MSD standards

Once an OSCAR service has Social Services Accreditation, eligible parents may apply for Work and Income for the  OSCAR Fee Subsidy (explained further here). Accreditation is also a requirement for OSCAR services that receive operating grants from the Ministry of Social Development (see below.) Completing the accreditation process also gives parents reassurance that appropriate polices and systems are in place.

The Accreditation Process

To obtain Social Services Accreditation (SSA) for an OSCAR service, an organisation has to demonstrate that it complies with the Social Sector Accreditation Standards (Level 3), as well as a Specialist OSCAR Standard. To start this process, a written policy manual and various other documents will need to be submitted to the SSA team. An assessor will review the documents, make contact and visit the service to meet with management and check the facilities. Once the assessor is satisfied that the service meets all the standards, documentation is issued confirming this. The accreditation is typically valid for 3 years.

More information on the accreditation process can be found at the Ministry of Social Development OSCAR Accreditation page.

Use this link to find out more about starting up a new OSCAR service.

There is a significant amount of work involved in obtaining the accreditation and it can be difficult to know where to start. We strongly recommend that you first download and review the SSA Standards and check that your organisation could realistically meet these. There is nothing preventing you from delaying the accreditation process until the service has been up and running for a while. Another useful link covers some of the basic paperwork and systems that you should have in place, even if you don’t undertake accreditation

Some other early steps in preparing for accreditation might include

  • Confirm that the facility complies with relevant building codes
  • Check that the building and facilities are safe and suitable for children’s use
  • Register for police vetting and start initiate the required staff screening processes
  • Seek appropriate guidance on important policy areas such as child protection, enrolment procedures and duty of care
  • Confirm key staff in programme and/or administrative roles and organise suitable inductions, including an overview of the MSD requirements
  • Develop key staff documents such as job descriptions and a code of conduct
  • Prepare essential forms, including enrolment, registers, accident/incidents and risk assessments.
  • Set up bank account and basic income and expenditure records for the service

If you need further assistance with preparing for MSD Accreditation, please make contact with the Regional OSCAR networks.


The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) provides contract-based funding for over 700 OSCAR services. These funds are fully committed and at present there are no opportunities for new services to access this funding.

If your programme has a current MSD contract, please note that contracts usually come up for renewal in April each year and it is essential to ensure MSD are notified if any contact information or the location of your programme will be changing.

Guidelines for Change of Ownership for MSD-contracted OSCAR providers.

Some additional information is available at the MSD OSCAR Funding web page.

"OSCAR Approval"
How our sector standards have evolved over 2 decades

Operating standards for OSCAR services were first introduced in 1999. They were originally called the “Child, Youth and Family Guidelines for Approval for OSCAR Services” and any parent who wished to access the OSCAR Fee Subsidy had to use a service that was approved under these guidelines.

In 2002, grant funding for OSCAR services was made available through the Ministry of Social Development. To access funding, organisations had to meet a range of criteria, including CYF Approval. This stimulated a steady increase in the number of approved services.

"CYF Standards" and "CYF Approval" were terms used until 2012, when the Approvals team moved from CYF to MSD. The process and standards remained essentially unchanged and was usually called "OSCAR Approval" or “MSD Approval”.

The OSCAR Standards were substantially revised in 2011 and in 2016 they were replaced by the MSD Social Sector Accreditation Standards (Level 3), and an additional specialist standard for OSCAR services. The term "Approval" has mostly been dropped from use by MSD, which now refers to the process as "Social Services Accreditation."

Quick links

Social Sector Acccreditation Standards for OSCAR

Social Sector Accreditation (MSD Web Page)

Application form for OSCAR Accreditation

Social Sector Accreditation Contact Information


OSCAR Fee Subsidy

Establishing a New OSCAR Service

OSCAR Approval (Accreditation) & Venue Capacity

Tips for Re-Approval (Maintaining Accreditation)

A service must be "OSCAR Approved" (hold current Social Sector Accreditation) if parents want to access OSCAR Fee Subsidy when attending that service. All OSCAR Programmes that have MSD OSCAR funding contracts are also required to have this accreditation.

"OSCAR Approval" (now called "Social Services Accreditation"), OSCAR funding contracts and OSCAR Fee Subsidy are each administered by different agencies within the Ministry of Social Development. 


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