Grandparents paid for babysitting

In many families grandparents become the designated babysitters. Although it can be a joy to have grandchildren around for a few hours, if babysitting becomes a regular occurrence it can take a big chunk of time out of your week.

A proposed overhaul of Australia’s convoluted childcare system could see hardworking grandparents getting paid for the time they spend as nannies. The proposal suggests that the various childcare subsidies on offer should be replaced with a single, means-tested payment which would go directly to the parents’ choice of childcare provider. This would include nannies and grandparents, as long as they held a Certificate III in early childhood education from a TAFE.

Under the proposed changes families on an income of $60,000 or less would be able to get 90 per cent of the cost of childcare covered. This would then drop steadily so that families on $300,000 or more would only receive 30 per cent of the cost of childcare.

Currently the average cost of childcare in Australia is $74 per child, per day. A nanny costs, on average, $20-25 per hour for two children.

Commissioner Wendy Craik said the proposal would help the childcare workforce increase by about 15 per cent. It would also help to meet the needs of families struggling to find flexible childcare, as well as those in areas with long waiting lists for crèches and kindergartens. The payment would be available to cover childcare for children whose parents work at least 24 hours per fortnight, are looking for work or who are studying.

A Certificate III in early childhood education takes six months to complete at a full time study load, but undertaking this study could mean that older Australians and grandparents who already care for grandchildren could receive income to subsidise their superannuation or Age Pension.

Assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley has cautioned that the report is only a draft, and that there is work to be done before it is handed to the Government later in the year.

Find out more at the ABC News website

Opinion: Finally, some acknowledgement

It is worth noting that the Abbott Government has stated there will be no extra funding for childcare in the foreseeable future, so any new payments will have to take money away from somewhere else in the childcare system. Having said that, I do feel cautiously optimistic about this turn of events.

Not all childcare payments are currently means-tested, so including means-testing would help to cover some of these costs. I think that including both qualified nannies and grandparents in childcare payments is an incredibly important step. Individuals can cater for flexible timetables and families with special needs in a way that the stock-standard childcare system can’t. I also think that acknowledging the amount of work some grandparents put in to care for grandchildren is hugely important. For those grandparents already caring for grandchildren this could mean finally receiving a wage for their work, and for other older Australians it could be a way to find work in a job market which has not always been accepting of older workers.

As our population grows we are going to have to find new ways to employ people, and to accept that institutionalising all care and education is not going to be viable forever. To me this is simply the mirror of the Government’s realisation that many Australians are going to need, and want, to age in their own homes, rather than in a care facility, and that this option needs to be provided for.

What do you think? Should grandparents receive payment for babysitting? Is this a positive for older Australians, or will this prompt more families to leave the kids with grandma and grandpa instead of finding space for them in a childcare facility? And is it fair to insist grandparents go back to TAFE to look after their own grandchildren?

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