Updates to the In Home Care National Guidelines and Handbook

Published on Wednesday, 14 October 2020
Last updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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There’s a great variety of child care available to Australian families, and although long day care might be perfect for one family, and occasional care will suit another, sometimes In Home Care is the only option.

Care-givers like babysitters and au pairs provide child care in the home, but when we speak about In Home Care (IHC), we’re referring to the government’s program of subsidised child care which is available to families who can’t use another type of mainstream care because:

  • The parents or carers work non-standard or variable hours, e.g. they work shifts when normal child care services are shut
  • The parents or carers are geographically isolated from other types of child care, e.g. they live in a remote or rural area, or
  • The family has challenging or complex needs, e.g. a parent is getting treatment for a serious illness, or a child has a disability that can’t be catered for by another child care or community-based service.

The IHC program provides up to 3,200 places nationally, and to get up to 100 hours of subsidised IHC per child, per fortnight, the family must:

  • Be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy
  • Show that other types of child care (i.e. centre-based day care, family day care or outside school hours care) aren’t available or appropriate, and
  • Meet one of the above criteria around non-standard hours, geographical isolation or challenging or complex needs.

IHC Support Agencies assess families and determine if they’re eligible for IHC, and you can read more about the IHC program here.

The government’s IHC National Guidelines and IHC Handbook also provide key information:

  • The National Guidelines cover the legislative and policy framework for the IHC program, and
  • The Handbook provides guidance around how the IHC program operates.

In recent months, the government has updated the Guidelines and Handbook to reflect some legislative changes, and although there’s no difference in how the IHC program operates for families, here are some of their main updates to the IHC materials:

  1. The government is formally delegating power to IHC Support Agencies to assess families’ eligibility for IHC.

    This means that IHC Support Agencies have the power to assess eligibility, allocate ICH places and reduce ICH places ‘by unused or unusable places’.

    By formally delegating power to determine eligibility, the government is ensuring that decisions made by the IHC Support Agencies are reviewable under Family Assistance Law.
  2. The government has applied indexation to income thresholds, the annual subsidy and hourly rate cap.

The government says, ‘Subsidised care under the IHC program must be provided only for children of individuals eligible for the Child Care Subsidy’ (CCS), and how much CCS a family receives is calculated by their income, the hourly rate cap for IHC, and an activity test (which determines how many hours of subsidised care they can receive each fortnight, up to 100 hours).

The 2020-2021 income thresholds dictate that:

  • Families earning over $353,680 aren’t entitled to the CCS
  • Families earning between $189,390 and $353,680 have an annual subsidy cap of $10,560 per child (the government will subsidise their child care fees up to this amount), and
  • Families earning less than $189,390 per year have no annual cap on their subsidy amount.

Depending on income, the government may pay as much as 85 per cent towards IHC, and this percentage will apply to the actual fee charged for IHC or the hourly rate cap, whichever is lower. 

Under the 2020-2021 rates, the hourly rate cap for IHC is $33.17 per family (not per child).

  1. The responsibilities of IHC services around excursions and travel have been clarified.

    When it comes to excursions, IHC services must ensure that, ‘Excursions are not the primary purpose of a session of care and are incidental occurrences to the overall delivery of a child’s educational development program.’

    A swimming lesson, for example, will fall outside the scope of IHC because it’s the main focus of that session.
  2. The government has updated the Handbook to give extra support to services in metropolitan Melbourne by reimbursing the travel costs associated with home visits during the COVID-19 crisis. The government has also made small changes to the names of government departments.

In the Guidelines and Handbook, the Department of Education is now referred to as The Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and the Department of Human Services is called Services Australia.

Although there aren’t a huge number of IHC places available nationally, families who meet the eligibility criteria really benefit from having access to quality early childhood education and care in their home.

IHC is delivered by qualified educators and if think your family could be eligible, make sure you contact an IHC Support Agency in your state or territory.

Additional reference

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment

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