Good news for working mums. Bad news for struggling single parents.

There are some big changes on the way in childcare.

The Federal Government is considering big changes to the childcare system and has announced a new pilot program to subsidise nannies for working families.

The program is aimed at parents who have difficulty fitting in with mainstream childcare: shift workers like nurses and police officers, those whose children have special needs, and people living in rural areas. It’s restricted to families making less than $250,000.

The nannies have to be attached to an approved service (to stop people from paying their own family members), be at least 18, hold a first-aid certificate, and have passed a working-with-children check.

The pilot program is set to start in January next year, and is aimed at subsidising nannies for 10,000 children over the two years it runs.

Nannies will now be subsidised for some families.

Okay, so you can pick holes in it. The nannies don't need to have any early childhood qualifications, so they might not provide the same standard of care as childcare workers. Parents might ask the nannies to do some housework in their quiet moments, which would mean they'd effectively be getting free housekeepers. Childcare centres might have staffing issues if their workers quit to become nannies.

But it's a start. Some thinking has gone into it. It's trying to help working parents who need help. It could open up more jobs for nannies. It's definitely better than shoveling money at the most highly paid working mums.

That's not the only big news today about childcare, though. The Government is looking at introducing an "activity test" for childcare subsidies in the upcoming budget. That means that parents would have to prove they're working or studying over a certain set of hours to get the childcare benefit and childcare rebate. Parents on welfare are likely to be hardest hit, with Early Childhood Australia estimating that up to 100,000 low-income families could miss out.


This "earn or learn" rule might sound fair enough in theory. But what about single mums who need time to themselves to look for work - to drop off resumes or go to job interviews? What about parents getting a few hours casual work here or there, but not enough to pass the activity test? Is there a danger of trapping these people on welfare?

Mums need time to look for work, too.

And how about the children of these families on welfare? Aren't they the ones who would most benefit from spending a couple of days a week in good-quality childcare, to help make sure they're on a similar level to other kids when they start primary school?

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison doesn't buy that argument. He doesn't think it's all about education.

"Children who grow up in jobless families are more likely to end up on welfare for life than others who don't," he told the ABC, "and that's just another cold hard statistic that we have to comes to terms with."

Do we have to come to terms with it? Or could we try to do something about it?

We want these kids to grow up to be the working parents of the future. Don't we?

Are you going to be affected by these upcoming changes to childcare?

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