ACT News

Childcare issues resolved by hiring au pairs

 Whatever the federal government decides about extending the childcare rebate to cover nannies and au pairs, Charnwood mum Katherine Hayes knows she's already ahead.

Help at hand: The Hayes family, Brenden, Katherine, Zane, 5, Aiden, 3, and Diesel 1, and with their au pair Larissa Hettich.
Help at hand: The Hayes family, Brenden, Katherine, Zane, 5, Aiden, 3, and Diesel 1, and with their au pair Larissa Hettich. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"We have had two au pairs and it's been life changing," she said.

"It was not something we always intended to do but at the beginning of this year we found ourselves with limited options."

Leaving work early to collect her children from childcare was causing difficulties at her workplace, and if she was late arriving at the centre she faced stiff fines.

"The one we went to charged $5 per minute in late fees per child. So for three children it was $15 for every minute I was late. I got stuck in traffic once and paid about $200," Mrs Hayes said.

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Mrs Hayes said au pairs could only stay with families for six months at a time.

"Both of the au pairs we have had stay with us have been university educated in childcare fields, including a kindergarten teacher and both had over 2000 hours of childcare experience before starting with us," she said.

"We are paying for top tier au pairs but with the agency fees and the money we pay directly to the au pairs it adds up to about $26,000 per year which is a lot less than childcare centre fees even after the rebate."

Other Canberra families are sharing care in order to make ends meet.

Canberra-raised Lisa Crowe, who is based in Melbourne, started her business Share A Nanny two years ago and started covering the ACT last year.

"I have been a nanny for 20 years and I used to do sharing for three different families at the same time," she said.

"They could not afford a nanny on their own and they were in a mums group together and they would drop their kids off at one house and share the cost of the nanny fee. Now that's our business.

"A lot of nannies want $25 per hour which is very hard to get because it's hard to find a family willing to pay that. But if they can split it and pay $12.50 to $15 per hour the nanny can still get paid $20-$30."