Families who rely on au pairs say requirement for qualification will penalise them

Families who rely on au pairs for flexible childcare say a new requirement for home-based educators to be qualified will penalise working families by removing their choices.

But the government says leaving au pairs out of the new rule could lead to rampant growth in the unregulated au pair market.

Fluent French is spoken on a South Waikato farm, by au pair Jennifer Taragona.

"I can teach to Cooper, they can teach me, they can correct my English. I think it's so beautiful because we just help each other," she told Newshub.

Jennifer has been au pair to the Neill's for five months.

She helps in the mornings and afternoons so that mum Kelly can go to work, and her husband Duncan can run the farm.

"We need just affordable great flexible childcare and we need it in hours that perhaps a day-care centre can't provide," Kelly told Newshub. 

But Government concerns about inconsistent quality in home-based early childhood education has led to plans to professionalise it.

That means au pairs and other home-based educators will have to have a relevant qualification.

"Finding an au pair or any in-house educator to make us make our family work financially is great, so putting a barrier in front of that is just going to make it harder," says Kelly.

The education minister says the higher requirements and greater scrutiny will result in some au pair agencies leaving the market.

He says he believes au pairs provide valuable support to parents, but exempting might have led to rapid growth in the unqualified au pair market.

This family feels a qualification isn't the only measure of a good au pair.

"There are life skills and there's behavioural management and discipline and all of that is even more beneficial with a one-on-one or one-on-two ratio with the carer," says Kelly.

The Neill's say they need a childcare option that provides both stability and flexibility.

Minister Chris Hipkins' office has confirmed it's received a request to meet from two au pair agencies and that's currently under consideration.