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Paramedics, nurses and midwives apply for nanny program

Queensland Ambulance Service,paramedic,nurse,midwi
Photo: Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics Neil and Valerie Noble
It’s no easy feat being shift-working parents - just ask Neil and Valerie Noble.

The Cairns paramedics and parents of Matthew, aged 7, and Courtney, 11, often face the work-life juggle of finding carers for their children when their work rosters clash.

“Val’s a flight paramedic - she works two days, two nights and then has four off, and I work a Thursday to Thursday week on, week off, so there’s many a time where we’re both on shift at night time together,” Neil, an operations supervisor at Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS), said.

“There’s no childcare facilities that are 24-hours in Cairns, so we pay for someone to come to the house or we look for the kids to go to someone else’s house.”

Neil and Valerie are two of thousands of shift-working health professionals, including paramedics, nurses and midwives, who have applied to access subsidised nannies for childcare at home, under a new Federal Government trial.
Applications for the $246 million two-year Nanny Pilot Program closed on November 5.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services (DSS) said the government extended the application period after a “high level of demand” from families applying for the program.

The department is now assessing applications against the program’s eligibility criteria with successful families set to be notified in early December.

Neil, a paramedic of 21 years, said the program will help shift-workers offset the cost of employing carers for non-standard hours, such as nights and weekends.

“Some of those costs can be exorbitant,” he said.

“Some of the babysitters we are paying work out at $16.50 an hour, which doesn’t sound like much for an hourly rate until you’re the one paying for it.

“If you look at 12 hours at $16.50 that really adds up for two nights a week every alternate week - so that’s where the nanny pilot is really going to help.

“In terms of the nannies, it also creates more work for those who are seeking extra work through the program, and they’ve got to be accredited and have all of the credentials to look after the kids well.”

The program also assists the many other couples, like Neil and Valerie, where both parents work across the health and emergency service sectors.

“Certainly paramedics are drawn to nurses - we’ve got a couple of paramedic-nurse couples and we’ve got one paramedic-firefighter couple and certainly a lot in the police force, so we’re not alone,” Neil said.

“Initially when we moved to Cairns, we arranged at the ambulance service to have our shifts completely opposite, so that there would always be one of us at home to look after the children and they were really accommodating.

“However when you have us times 20 or 30 couples working in the same work unit, it’s really difficult for the ambulance service to be able to accommodate that.

“I think all round, for the kids, for us, for everybody - we’re really pleased with this program and we hope that it goes ahead after the pilot.

“Whether or not we get accepted, we are very supportive and think that it’s a great idea.”

The program will provide an hourly subsidy for participating families, earning less than $250,000 a year, towards the cost of using a nanny.

The initiative is designed to support families struggling to access affordable childcare services when working, studying or seeking employment, and will focus on shift-workers, those living in remote areas and parents who are distanced from childcare services.

The program is expected to begin early next year and will run until December 2017.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords