After a long wait and an endless amount of media speculation, the Productivity Commission has released its draft inquiry report on Childcare and Early Childhood Learning.
One of the key features of the proposals is what many were counting on – the ability to claim back the costs of nannies.
The average out-of-pocket cost of childcare in Australia is 27 per cent of the average wage — which is less than in Britain, the US, New Zealand or Canada. However the number of women who work has increased in the past two decades – from 57 to 66 per cent – and the bill for childcare costs has also grown, with some families finding its financially just too difficult to send their kids to childcare.
With more than 40 per cent of children aged 12 years or under using some type of informal care on a regular basis, and nearly one in four parents working part time being unable to work more hours due to unmet demand for childcare, there is a desperate need for an overhaul of the system.
Some of the submission details concern over stay-at-home mums taking much needed child care spots: “But the reality of childcare is that it should be more directed at working families. Spots can be filled by stay at home mums … just looking for time off from the baby for a cheap ‘babysitting’ rate,” wrote one contributor. While others were concerned with the lack of after school care: “My eldest daughter attends Leichhardt Public which in 2014 will have 650 students but only 180 spots for after school care. I have friends whose second child cannot access this service as they are full – and they are on the priority list. Next year will be even worse.”
The key recommendations of the report are:
One of the key recommendations is that grandparents, nannies or babysitters could be eligible for a government payment if they had at least a Certificate III in early childhood education. (Which is not exactly an easy task, being a one year full-time or two year part-time course..)
The current costs of a nanny varies from $20 an hour to around $27 an hour. This does not cover au pairs – however it does recommend that the current restriction on au pair’s visas be amended, allowing au pairs to remain with a family for the full twelve months of their visa rather than the current limit of six months.
The report says that, “This reduces the transition costs for families changing to a new au pair every six months and the continuity and stability that this would enable would also be of benefit for children.”