Starting up an OSCAR service

Are you thinking of starting an after school care or school holiday programme? Are you new to the OSCAR sector? This page outlines the basic steps for establishment of an OSCAR service and where you can get more advice and guidance. (What is OSCAR?)

Starting a children's programme or an OSCAR programme?

If you have decided to look into setting up an after school care or school holiday programme, first think about why?

  • Is it because you see that children in your community need more opportunities to make the most of their out of school time?
  • Have you got use of a facility and see the chance to set up a programme there?
  • Is there a lack of services to support working parents in your area?
  • Are you passionate about arts, sport or maybe music and want to share your skills and experience with children?

Any of these could be a good reason to set up a programme for children in your community. 

OSCAR (Out of School Care and Recreation) is one possible model for making your vision into a reality. The OSCAR model involves meeting minimum standards and can put you in a position to apply for government funding. (Read more about this here.)

Being an "OSCAR service", usually means becoming "OSCAR approved" under the Ministry of Social Development's OSCAR Standards. You can however run children's activities outside of school hours without becoming an OSCAR service. While the OSCAR Standards are not mandatory they do provide a very useful and practical framework for anyone wishing to run any sort of children's programme.

Whether or not you decide to go down the OSCAR pathway, we encourage to follow the initial step outlined below and use the OSCAR Standards as a benchmark. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Artilcle 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 and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts."

When children have access to good quality out of school activities, the whole of society benefits.

What are my first steps?

There are several steps that you should undertake. They might not happen in the order you see them here; in fact they are likely to be all happening at once. We recommend that you complete all these stages before heading further with actually getting your service up and operating.

What kind of programme and why?

Out of school services for children can come in all shapes and sizes:

  • The programme may be focussed on a certain activity type (e.g. sport, performing arts, cultural expression) or offer a range of activities
  • Some programmes focus more on social outcomes (building confidence or good social skills)
  • A certain age group might be the focus
  • Some might operate one day a week, others operate every day
  • Some charge fees, some are free
  • There may be varying mixes of paid and voluntary staff 
  • The hours of the programme can range from a few hours to overnight and more extended hours.

In these key areas your service will largely take shape according to the needs that you identify. It will be helpful to get feedback from families that might use your service. Important local networks to be working with will include your schools, early childhood facilities and other local groups such as churches and parent groups.

If you decide to enter the OSCAR sector and apply for funding, some of apsects of your programme will have to meet certain criteria (read more here) e.g. to receive OSCAR funding your service must operate 5 days per week. 

Assess the feasibility of your proposed service

As you start to get a better picture of the needs in your community, you can make some assessment of feasibility. This will include

  • What other children's services of a similar type are already operating in your area?
  • Where the service/programme will be located?
  • Where are the children who will use the service and how will they get to it?
  • Is the venue appropriate for children and the programme?
  • How much will the fees be?
  • What will it cost to operate? 

You will find a useful sheet outlining this process further here

Read the OSCAR Standards

Whether or not you decide to apply for OSCAR Approval, the OSCAR Standards provide a useful set of guidelines for the operation of any children's service.

The Standards cover the following areas:

  • Service Environment
  • Service Operation
  • Health and Safety
  • Child Protection
  • Supervision
  • Management

If you are applying for OSCAR Approval, it is essential to consistently use the Standards document as your guide and point of reference throughout the process. If you do not have a copy of the standards, downloaded them here.

Frequently asked questions

How are OSCAR services funded?

The Ministry of Social Development provides grants to OSCAR services that are are approved under the OSCAR Standards, if other criteria are also met. Work and Income will subsidise fees for eligible parents if they attend an OSCAR Approved service. Read about these forms of funding here.

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.

What does "OSCAR Approved" mean?

An OSCAR service that complies with the "OSCAR Standards for Approval" will usually refer to this as either "OSCAR Approved" or "CYF Approved", as the approval process is currently carried out by the Child, Youth and Family (CYF) Approvals Team.

The "OSCAR Standards for Approval" is a set of operating standards and guidelines which a large proportion of the OSCAR sector complies with. They are not compulsory, however in order to be eligible to receive OSCAR Funding from the Ministry of Social Development, an OSCAR service must comply with these standards. Also parents who wish to apply for Work and Income OSCAR Fee Subsidy must have their children attending an OSCAR service that complies with these standards.

What standards and regulations apply to OSCAR?

The OSCAR sector is not governed by any specific regulations. An operator of an OSCAR service must however comply with all relevant general legislation such as the Health and Safety in Employment Act, Employment Relations Act, Human Rights Act, Privacy Act etc.

Who can help me if I have more questions?

Please refer to the advice and support information on the contacts page.

On this page

Are you starting up an after school or schoool holiday programme?

We explain some basic steps and help you to answer some important questions:

What is the need?

Is the OSCAR model
the right option?

Will my programme
be feasible?

What standards and
guidelines apply?

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