03.The high cost of care
The average child care cost for parents who responded to our survey was $78.50 per day, with wide variations depending on the type of child care used and where they lived. The average daily cost:
- For city parents: about $84
- For parents in a regional or country area: about $62
As well as long day care and care given by relatives or friends, there are two other main child care options:
- Family day care About 110,000 children in Australia are in family day care, where carers look after children in their own homes and usually operate within schemes managed by community or government organisations. Family day care is the cheapest option we found, with an average daily cost of $57 compared with $80 on average for long day care. Family day care also scored much better on quality in our survey, with 74% of parents very satisfied.
- Nannies Respondents using nanny services also gave high ratings for quality, but the costs can be prohibitive for many parents, and prices can vary widely depending on hours of care and whether you share the nanny with another family. In our survey,
the price paid ranged from $88 to $250 per day. While the Child Care Rebate (see below) helps with the costs of LDC and FDC, it’s not available for care by a nanny.
Julie from Victoria takes issue with this exception: “Nanny costs should be tax deductible, if not rebatable. Use of a nanny, although arguably a higher socioeconomic means of child care, frees up a spot for those who require other forms of child care.”
Child Care Benefit
- The government’s Child Care Benefit is means-tested, with the maximum amount only available if you receive an income support payment such as a Centrelink pension or have a family income of less than $39,785.
- Cut-offs for a partial benefit depend on the number of children you have ($143,095 is the cut-off if you have two, for example).
- The benefit is available for up to 50 hours per week if you’re working, training or studying.
- For 2011-12 it was $3.78 per hour (up to$189 per week) for approved child care such as LDC;
- Registered child care, such as care by a nanny, was subsidised by only 63c per hour (up to $31.60 per week).
Child Care Rebate
- The Child Care Rebate is only available for approved child care. It’s not means-tested and refunds 50% of your child care costs up to a maximum benefit of $7500, per child, per year.
- The average annual rebate families received was about $2100 per child in 2010-11.
In a confusing bureaucratic twist, you need to apply for the Child Care Benefit to receive the Child Care Rebate, even if your income is above the cut-offs - no wonder about 100,000 families are missing out. You also need to be working or studying, or to have an exemption from both.
For more information, go to www.familyassist.gov.au or call the Family Assistance Office on 13 61 50.