Child Care Subsidy eligibility | Nannies and Au Pairs

Blog Image for article Child Care Subsidy eligibility | Nannies and Au Pairs

The Australian Government overhauled its approach to In-Home Care assistance when it brought in the new Child Care Package.

As of 1 July 2018, the In-Home Care program replaced the Home Care Program and Nanny Pilot (which used to provide subsidised nanny care for about 10,000 children).

Under the current system:

  • There are up to 3,200 In-Home Care places available to families who cannot use other types of approved child care because of their work hours, isolated location, or challenging and complex needs.
  • Nannies may be eligible for a government subsidy if they’re registered providers, but if you hire a nanny privately or through a non-government-approved agency, you will not be eligible for subsidised child care.
  • Au pairs do not attract government funding.

Here we see who is eligible for an In-Home Care place, and explain why nannies and au pairs still make sense for many families.

What does the In-Home Care program offer?

The In-Home Care program provides flexible childcare in the family home where other types of mainstream childcare aren't appropriate or available. 

This kind of government-subsidised childcare supports parents to participate in the workforce, and it provides children with quality early education and care that's delivered by qualified In-Home Care educators, who are engaged by approved In-Home Care services. 

If you're eligible for an In-Home Care place, then your child's educator will tailor their learning program to their abilities, interests, ideas, culture, and knowledge, and offer lots of enriching activities, like art and craft, games, and outdoor play.


What are the eligibility requirements for In-Home Care?

To be eligible for an In-Home Care place, you have to meet all the eligibility criteria for the Child Care Subsidy and also meet the criteria for In-Home Care.

The Child Care Subsidy is paid directly to your approved child care provider to reduce your fees, and to receive the Child Care Subsidy, you must:

  • Care for your child at least two nights a fortnight, or have 14 per cent of their care;
  • Be liable for their fees at an approved child care service; and
  • Meet residency rules

Your child must be immunised (or else be on a catch-up schedule or have an approved medical exemption). And they mustn’t be attending secondary school unless an exemption applies.

To receive In-Home Care support, you must also show that other types of approved child care are not available or appropriate, and one or more of these criteria must apply:

  • Parents or carers are working non-standard or variable hours, outside of normal childcare service hours;
  • Parents or carers are geographically isolated from other types of approved child care, including because they live in a rural or remote location;
  • The family has challenging or complex needs, including a parent getting treatment for a serious illness and/or a child with additional needs or a disability whose early childhood education and care requirements can't be catered for by another approved childcare service or government-funded or community-based service.

The government says the In Home Care program is, ‘Targeted at those families that need this care the most,’ and if you think you meet the criteria, you should contact your state or territory In Home Care Support Agency. They will assess your family’s eligibility and allocate an In-Home Care place if you are eligible.

In dollar terms, the Child Care Subsidy for IHC is means tested and the government will pay up to 85 per cent of the actual fee charged, or 85 per cent of the family hourly rate cap, whichever is lower. At present, the hourly rate cap for In-Home Care is $33.47 per family (not per child) and families pay the gap.

An activity test determines how many hours of subsidised care you can get per child, per fortnight and this is capped at 100 hours.

This activity test works out the maximum number of subsidised childcare hours your family is eligible for, not the number of In-Home Care hours you’ll receive. The In-Home Care Support Agency assesses how many In-Home Care hours are needed.

You can estimate how much subsidy your family might get by using the In-Home Care Estimator Tool.

Why are nannies and au pairs still popular?

With the Nanny Pilot gone, focused eligibility criteria for In-Home Care, and a relatively small number of subsidised places on offer, most families aren’t receiving payments for In-Home Care.

Childcare provided in the family home does have its benefits, though, and even without government assistance, many families find that a nanny or au pair makes financial and logistical sense for them.

This is especially true if you’re on a higher income, or you work non-standard or variable hours (but aren’t eligible for In-Home Care), or you have several children needing care, because:

  • Higher-income families get less childcare assistance than middle and low-income families (on a sliding scale), and those earning $354,305 or more get no Child Care Subsidy at all.
  • Families with unpredictable, early, late, or interstate work find it difficult to fit in with normal childcare hours. For this reason, plenty of business owners, shift workers and double professionals use a nanny or au pair instead of nine-to-five, centre-based care.
  • The cost of centre-based care adds up for families with several children requiring lots of care. Although an increase to the Child Care Subsidy for families with multiple young children in care may help, older children and families earning more than $354,305 will not attract the higher rate.  

Depending on your individual circumstances and care preference, au pairs and nannies can provide child care that’s relatively affordable or worth its weight in gold.

Smartaupairs says that ‘Once all the costs are tallied up, hiring an au pair is cheaper than child care,’ with the added benefit of getting to know someone from another culture.

And while nannies usually cost more than formal child care, like day care and outside school hours care (especially if you only have one child), many families feel they come with benefits that money can’t buy.

Nannies are generally professional child carers, with relevant qualifications, who provide individualised attention that meets parents' and children’s needs. They offer consistent, yet flexible, in-home care and can be employed on a live-in, live-out, full-time, part-time, or nanny-share basis (which makes nanny care less costly).

Apart from affordability, what else are parents looking for in childcare?

According to this paper published by the Centre for Independent Studies, parents prioritise affordability when choosing care, but they also highly value personal ‘warmth’ and location.

After surveying 521 working mums, researchers found that:

  • 60 per cent nominated personal warmth as one of their top three priorities in child care;
  • 56 per cent had ‘location’ in their top three; and
  • 48 per cent prioritised cost.

Fifty per cent of those surveyed preferred informal child care options to formal ones (like day care), and 66 per cent said they’d be happy to receive less Child Care Subsidy if they could spend it on more informal child care, like that provided by nannies, family, and friends.

The takeaway from all this is that child care in the family home offers benefits for parents and children, and even if you’re not eligible for government assistance, this kind of personal, convenient, and flexible child care might be right for your family.

To learn more about nannies, au pairs, and In-Home Care, head to the library.

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