The government released the long-awaited final version of the Productivity Commission’s report on childcare late on Thursday.
It makes several important recommendations for making the sector more efficient and less complex for families, but it doesn’t do enough to address the shortage of childcare places, argues Centre for Independent Studies policy analyst and childcare researcher Trisha Jha.
“The PC’s own statistics show that there are approximately 165,000 full time equivalent working parents who would like to increase their work commitment, but can’t because of affordability and access issues with childcare,” Ms Jha says.
One of the more controversial recommendations in the final report is to extend the new recommended childcare subsidy, the Early Care and Learning Subsidy, to nannies and other in-home carers—so long as they are appropriately qualified and meet the same regulatory standards as long day care and family day care.
“This is a huge mistake,” Jha says. “We know that the new requirements for staff-to-child ratios and staff qualifications are part of what has pushed up the price of childcare, and my research shows there is little evidence of benefit for children from these costly regulations. These regulations should be re-examined in light of the evidence and certainly not extended to nannies.”
“There’s obviously a need to make sure that government funding is only going to reputable childcare providers, but ensuring accountability for a nanny and ensuring accountability for a long day care service are two completely different things.
“Parents are much better placed to make judgements about the calibre of one nanny, whom they hire directly, than they are about all the staff at their child’s centre. The same level of regulation is therefore unnecessary.
“Nannies and in-home carers should only be required to fulfil basic health and safety requirements, such as undergoing a Working with Children check and holding a first aid certificate.
“Otherwise, the nanny sector will become just another over-regulated part of the childcare sector, and this will keep it too expensive for the middle-income families who need in-home care for various reasons.”