Can families get the Child Care Subsidy for nannies and au pairs?
Can families get the Child Care Subsidy for nannies and au pairs?
The New Child Care Package brought in many changes, including an overhaul of the government’s approach to In Home Care assistance.
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 or complex needs.
- Nannies may be eligible for a government subsidy if they’re a registered provider, but if you hire a nanny privately or through a non-government approved agency, you will not be eligible for subsidised child care; and
- 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 child care in the family home where other types of mainstream child care aren't appropriate or available.
This kind of government-subsidised child care 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.
If you're eligible for an In Home Care place, then your child's educator will tailor their learning program to their individual 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 recieve 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).
Age-wise, they must be 13 or under (or aged 14 to 18 with a disability).
To receive In Home Care support, you must meet the Child Care Subsidy criteria and show that other types of approved child care are not available to your family, or appropriate.
To do this, one or more of these criteria must apply:
- Your child’s parents or carers are working non-standard or variable hours, outside of normal child care service hours;
- Your child’s parents or carers are geographically isolated from other types of approved child care, including in rural or remote locations;
- Your family has challenging or complex needs, including a parent getting treatment for a serious illness, or a child with additional needs that can't be catered for by another approved child care service or government-funded/community based service.
The government says that the In Home Care program is, ‘Targeted at those families that need this care the most, with a focus on quality early childhood education and care provided by qualified educators.’
If you think you meet the Child Care Subsidy and In Home Care criteria, then you should contact your state or territory In Home Care Support Agency. They will assess your 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 is $33.17 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.
You can estimate how much subsidy your family will get by using the Payment and Service Finder.
Why are nannies and au pairs increasingly 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.
Child care 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, you have several children requiring care, or you and your partner work non-standard or variable hours (but aren’t eligible for In Home Care). This is because:
- Higher income families get less child care assistance than middle and low income families (on a sliding scale), and those earning $352,453 or more get no Child Care Subsidy at all.
- Families with several children requiring lots of care (e.g. a baby, a preschooler and a school-aged child) find themselves paying large amounts for centre-based care; and
- Families with unpredictable, early, late or interstate work find it difficult to fit in with normal child care 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.
Depending on your individual circumstances and care preference, nannies and au pairs can provide child care that’s worth its weight in gold or is downright affordable.
Smartaupairs says that, ‘Once all the costs are tallied up, hiring an au pair [and paying $200 pocket money a week, plus agency fees] is cheaper than child care,’ with the added benefit of getting to know someone from another culture.
Nannies usually cost more, but many families feel they also come with benefits that money can’t buy.
Nannies are experienced professionals who provide flexible, individualised child care that meets parents’ and children’s needs, and they can be employed on a live-in, live-out, full-time, part-time or nanny-share basis.
Money-wise, Little Lovelies has calculated that a nanny will cost about $165 per week more than formal day care and outside school hours care (based on a family income of $300,000, two children in full-time day care and a third child in before and after school care), but this is an outlay that some are more than happy to pay.
Apart from affordability, what else are parents looking for in child care?
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 CareforKids.com.au library.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 17 November 2020
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