Sydney (Tribune International, NSW Labor Media Release, 25 June 2020):NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay has urged the State Government to extend free community preschool in NSW until at least the end of 2020 – giving more parents the flexibility to return to work during the recession.

Jodi McKay MP

Ms McKay visited Cardiff Community Preschool, joined by Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning Jodie Harrison and the Shadow Minister for the Hunter Clayton Barr, to launch Labor’s statewide campaign Helping Women Back to Work.

The Berejiklian Government is cutting COVID support to the NSW early childhood sector in September, compounding an “economic cliff” when JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments disappear.

This follows the Commonwealth terminating free federally-funded childcare on July 12 – which Gladys Berejiklian failed to challenge in the National Cabinet.

“One of the best stimulus programs we can provide in a recession is helping women back to work. Saving $50 a day on preschool may not sound like much – but it can be the difference between a parent having the financial security to look for work or stay at home,” Ms McKay said.

“The Government is spruiking big construction projects in Sydney and supporting mostly male employment.”

“But it has forgotten the people hit hardest. Women have borne the brunt of this crisis. We must provide Mums and Dads who are struggling to put food on the table with the financial flexibility to re-enter the workforce.”

Jodie Harrison said Hunter families will be among the big losers from terminating free early childhood services in September. There are 72 community preschools in the Hunter, offering 2,512 places.

“We could be helping families in the Hunter get back to work instead of putting pressure on household budgets when they are most vulnerable,” Clayton Barr said.

“September is when JobKeeper and JobSeeker end. The Government must cushion the blow by retaining vital early childhood support to families,” Ms Harrison said.

“From Western Sydney to the Sutherland Shire; and the North Coast to the Riverina to the Central West, Labor will be taking this campaign all over NSW.”

The May unemployment data shows the economic impact of COVID-19 is being disproportionately felt by women in NSW:

  • 155,000 women have lost jobs, compared to 114,000 men
  • 117,000 women exited the labour force, compared to 99,000 men
  • Female unemployment is 6.6%, compared to 6.2% for men

Shadow Minister for Women Trish Doyle added: “Continued access to free childcare and early education in NSW is by far Government’s biggest lever to lift workforce participation.  The potential benefits are enormous.  It’s an opportunity to support children’s learning and development while giving parents the flexibility to work.  We know $2 flows to the economy for every $1 spent on early childhood education.”

At Cardiff Community Preschool, Ms McKay, Ms Harrison and Mr Barr met preschool director James Petrovich and local mum Chantelle Smith from Cardiff.

Ms Smith is a casual high school teacher who lost all her work hours due to COVID. Her husband, who runs a small business, has lost 90% of his trade. Before the pandemic, their five-year-old daughter Rose attended preschool three days a week while her mother worked.

The family was forced to withdraw Rose from the preschool when they suffered severe loss of income.  However, they were able to enrol her again when preschool became free.

“Free community preschool is an economic lifeline for Mums like Chantelle and families who are on tight financial margins.  We need to see it continue so more parents can return to work,” Ms McKay added.

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