Friday, February 28, 2014

What are my child care options?

Childcare is a hot topic in the news of late with the Government’s Productivity Commission inquiry into early learning services. For those new parents embarking on childcare for the first time or those who are simply finding their current arrangement isn’t working for them we’ve put together a list and run down of the most common types of childcare available in Australia to choose from.

Private Arrangements

This includes care by family and friends, for fees or otherwise, as well as people who have some children in their home under private arrangements.

For people who have this option available, it can be a good starting point for child care as both parents and child find it more familiar. Depending on the arrangements, this can also be the cheapest option.

This is often a flexible arrangement and generally no paperwork needs to be completed. However, unless the carer registers, you will not be entitled to any Child Care Benefit (CCB) on any fees charged.

Family Day Care

Family Day Care is a government regulated and accredited service that provides care for children up to the age of 12 years within the registered carer’s home. Carers are offered support through an established network, either local government, church or a similar community body, but are not required to have any formal training. Registered carers are selected and monitored by professional Child Care Coordination Unit staff. The Family Day Care Coordination Unit provides ongoing personal and professional development to carers to assist them in maintaining quality child care.

The age of the children in care will determine the number of children a Family Day Carer can accept. The maximum number of pre-school aged children is 5. This small number allows for more individual care in a home environment.

A benefit of Family Day Care, depending on your particular carer, is you can arrange flexible hours including overnight stays, weekend care, after school hours, part-time and holiday care. This is useful for those mums and dads who work shift work.

In most Family Day Care situations you will need to provide all of your child’s food and drinks for the day.

You can receive the Child Care Benefit while using Family Day Care. One disadvantage of Family Day Care is that if your carer is ill you will need to make alternative arrangements for your child’s care. Also you should be aware that as there is only one carer on duty at any time, there is no daily monitoring of performance and standards and there may be periods of time when your child may be unsupervised while the carer is attending to the needs of the other children.

Centre Based Child Care or Long Day Care

Long Day Care centres are facilities that are operated by either private or government bodies and provide care that covers the normal working day for parents. Hours of operation broadly fall into 7.30 am to around 6 pm (of course each centre will have its own business hours) and most are open 10 hours per day Monday to Friday. They must be licensed by the Department of Community Services to operate.

Child care places can be few and far between and you may need to place your name on a number of waiting lists (which can be quite long) and this will normally incur a waitlist fee.

Daily fees will vary a great deal between each centre and you will need to establish what is being provided as part of the service. For example:
  • Will all meals be provided?
  • Are nappies included in the fee or will I need to provide my own?
  • Do I need to provide a sheet set for rest time?
Be aware, in the event that you are running late at the end of the day, most centres will charge a late pick-up fee. Find out what their policy is in advance.

Australian parents should be able to receive the Child Care Benefit through your child care centre. This can be as a reduced daily amount or as a lump sum at the end of the financial year. For more information about the Child Care Benefit visit the Family Assistance Office website at or phone 13 61 50.

Occasional Care

Occasional Care is exactly that, it’s for occasional use and available for 0-6 year olds. Many parents use this care for casual appointments, study, and casual work or for an occasional break from the kids. It is often provided by community groups, churches, or local councils. The staff at an Occasional Care centre are not necessarily trained in child care and some may be volunteers. Despite the term ‘occasional’, many such centres require bookings and regular usage whilst some require a booking for up to a week in advance. All centres with booking systems are likely to expect payment whether or not the child attended a booked session.


Pre-school is a preparation for your child before commencing school. There are quite large variations between the states as to the format and timing of starting pre-school so for more information you will need to seek clarification from your local government.

In general, pre-school is available to children between the ages of 3-5 and the hours of operation are either a morning or afternoon session, 5 days per week or a couple of days a week between 9 am-3 pm.

If your pre-school / private kindergarten is a Registered Carer with the Family Assistance office you may be able to claim Child Care Benefit.

Nanny, Au pair or Babysitter

The arrangements that you make with a nanny or babysitter are a private transaction between you and your chosen carer. They do not have to be licensed or approved by the government and as a result no Child Care Benefit is claimable.

This type of care means that your child can be cared for in their own home environment and allows for greater flexibility in the hours you select, although this usually comes at a price with nanny and babysitting services charging quite a high premium.

Many people find using a nanny agency to help select their child’s carer useful. Agencies will have ensured that all of their candidates comply with the conditions of the ‘Working with Children Check’ (WWC), have a current first aid certificate and will have checked their references. They will also attempt to match all of your requested criteria to a suitable candidate which may possibly reduce the number of people you will have to interview.

Some issues you will need to consider when engaging a nanny:
  • Are you happy to allow your child to travel in a car with the carer?
  • Will you provide a car and what are their driving skills like? Go for a drive yourself with them as part of the interview.
  • Will the nanny be prepared to do light housework, meal preparation etc.
  • What activities and programs will they engage in with your child?

In Home Care

There is an In Home Care scheme available throughout Australia that is coordinated and monitored by a government agency that assists with finding, and monitoring the care for some members of the community. The service was introduced in 2001 and access is still quite limited.

To be eligible for this assistance you must fall within one of the following categories:
  • You are unable to meet your child care needs with an existing service.
  • A shift worker or rural family who cannot access normal child care services.
  • You are a breastfeeding mother working from home and unable to use regular child care services.
  • You are a working mother after a multiple birth (3 babies or more) and unable to access suitable child care.
  • A family where the parent/s or child has an illness / disability.
Child Care Benefit is available for this service and is income-tested. The income test is based on your total household income.

For more information, contact The Child Care Access Hotline 1800 670 305.

Extract from the Working Parents Toolkit.
Kate Sykes, Rebecca Harper, Karen Miles, Emma Walsh 

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