The introduction of the Nanny Pilot Programme, which is funded by the Australian Government, is something to celebrate. Although there have been concerns about the lack of regulation, the program is still a step forward for families that require flexible childcare.
People tend to forget it wasn’t so long ago there was no regulation and there were few formalities in centre-based care. I have had the opportunity to witness growth and change in family day care as a family day care educator. It was interesting to hear the criticisms and for and against arguments on regulation at that time. Some of those same arguments and criticisms have been raised with the introduction of the Nanny Pilot.
Within the nanny industry, concern has been raised regarding the need for regulation of qualifications and training of staff that could place children at risk. Low funding could result in some providers engaging inexperienced, untrained nannies and placing them in situations where they could care for multiple children, including infants, without crucial support and training in place. It should be said that the current nanny industry is a mixed batch of self-regulation. Some organisations encourage training and child safety practices, while others do not.
In the private industry, families and agencies employing nannies make decisions regarding appropriate qualifications and experience. Career professional nannies have typically undertaken study in early childhood development, have had years of experience working as a mothers’ help (junior nanny) or in centre-based care, and have become parents themselves prior to taking on a sole-charge nanny position. In this way, the industry remains informal and unregulated. Although this lack of formality has received criticism, it has allowed families flexibility with childcare and provided continuity in the home environment.
With these and other concerns for the pilot to address, it is pleasing to see that it allows a trial of nannies over two years. That is much longer than other flexibility and In-Home Care trials previously undertaken. This will allow the federal government the opportunity to review and work through any issues. This provides hope that a successful and permanent Nanny Programme will be rolled out after the two years. The hope is strengthened by statements from federal ministers that indicate funding has been allocated for the program to continue in the long term. This is also an important step towards recognising that families’ work and childcare needs cannot all be placed in a one-size-fits-all box.
The pilot was initially funded at $246 million to assist up to 10,000 children but this number was then reduced to 3000 children. This saves the federal government $61 million. Education Minister Simon Birmingham said this was due to a lack of demand. A four- to five-week application period and a soft promotion did not allow enough awareness of the program. Another problem was that applications were available only online, which made access difficult for families in rural and remote communities.
As a parent looking for work, it would be difficult to plan childcare six months in advance. It is unfortunate that the federal government has decided not to allow new parent applications to the program during the two-year trial to fill places that may become available in that time.
Participating service providers were recently announced and it was pleasing to see such high-quality providers included. Some already work in the industry, or are attached to the existing In-Home Care Scheme, and have engaged with the industry peak body, the Australian Nanny Association.
A successful Nanny Pilot Programme may have a wonderful effect on the unregulated industry as a whole. This program will add to knowledge regarding reforms to best practice and child safety and development, which are at the forefront of a developing industry that exists to support working families.
Annemarie Sansom is president of the Australian Nanny Association and director of Night Nannies Australia.Do you have an idea for a story?
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