The Gillard government has announced it will increase the number of subsidised in-home childcare places by 17 per cent, but says providing rebates for nannies is a long way off.
At a press conference in Melbourne this morning, Childcare Minister Kate Ellis also announced that the federal government will add an additional 300 occasional-care places across the country.
Ms Ellis, who met with key stakeholders from the childcare industry yesterday to discuss future childcare reforms, said the announcements reflected the government's commitment to supporting families for whom traditional childcare is not an option.
"We recognise that centre-based care isn't the answer for every family and from today, more Australian families who struggle to access care they need will be supported to have their child cared for in their home."
She said an additional 790 families who have special needs would now have access to in-home care, which is subsidised by the means-tested Child Care Benefit and non-means-tested Child Care Rebate.
Subsidised in-home care is available to families who meet specific criteria — including families with three children under five, those who live in remote areas and cannot access approved childcare, shift workers, and families who have children with disabilities.
Currently the number of families applying for in-home care far outweighs the number of government-subsidised places available. Ms Ellis says the increase in places across the country will ease some of the demand.
"As well as boosting the flexible childcare options available to parents, these places will enable valuable study and workforce participation... This is great news for both families and the childcare sector."
However, Ms Ellis, who met with the Australian Nanny Association earlier in the day, said she did not support extending the childcare rebate to all families who use nannies — particularly while the industry lacks uniform regulation.
The Coalition, on the other hand, has promised it will ask the Productivity Commission to look at extending the childcare rebate to nannies if it wins the next election.
"I want to make it very clear that this is an existing regulated program with minimum standards of care in place," Ms Ellis said. "It is fully funded and it stands in contrast to the underdeveloped thought-bubble which Tony Abbott has put forward to look at subsidising nannies out of existing childcare funding."
She said she supported the nanny industry to work with the states and territories to develop a set of agreed regulations but said it would be a "very, very long road".
"When we have a look at nannies, there is no common regulation across Australia. There is no common standard across Australia. In fact, we see that in places there isn't even a common requirement for a police check in order to go into the profession and call yourself a nanny."
- Rachel Wells is The Age Consumer Affairs Editor