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Mum says free childcare needed beyond September


While parents and politicians worry about money, meals and mortgages, five-year-old Rose Smith just wants to keep going to preschool.

The cheeky youngster is one of 40 children enrolled at Cardiff Community Preschool.

It’s the same early learning hub her older brother ‘Teddy’ attended before he left for “big-school” almost three years ago.

Rose has been attending the facility for three days a week since she was “really small”. That was until COVID-19 struck earlier this year.

Since then, her dad has had to close his denture clinic in Mayfield and rely on Jobkeeper payments to help pay the ongoing bills.

Rose’s mum, Chantelle, a casual teacher at Adamstown’s St Pius X High School, has also had her working hours cut, forcing the family to forfeit childcare altogether.

For Rose, the changes meant staying away from her beloved preschool for six weeks, a change she was less than pleased with.

When Cardiff Community Preschool Director, James Petrovic, called to offer the family free childcare as part of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 stimulus package, Rose was thrilled to return, albeit for just two days a week.

The NSW Government, however, is cutting the COVID-19 support to the Early Learning sector in September, something Mrs Smith says will affect Rose’s preparation for primary school.

“It’s enabled me to get back to work,” Mrs Smith said.

“And Rose is starting school next year. She needs that foundation.”

With no end date to the pandemic, Mrs Smith says the government’s decision to cease payments in September was premature.

“This is affecting so many people and, come September, I can’t imagine how my husband’s business is going to be able to continue in a strong way or what my position will be with Rose in her preschool days,” she added.

“It’s [COVID-19] having a huge financial effect on our family and many others.

“It’s hard to foresee what’s going to happen in the future so how do we have a limit on this of September?”

NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay echoed Mrs Smith’s concerns during a visit to Cardiff Community Preschool on Thursday.

Ms McKay is calling on the government to extend the offer of free childcare until the end of the year.

“Don’t forget women,” Ms McKay urged the Berejiklian Government.

NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay and State Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp were kept entertained by Chantelle Smith’s daughter, five-year-old Rose Smith, on Thursday.

“If you are to get women back to work, you have to start providing childcare support.

“We have given our support for the package but it does need to continue beyond September.

“We’re not saying continue this indefinitely, what we’re saying is continue it until the end of the year just so families have that certainty and that consistency.

“It’s been a terrific scheme but now is not the time to stop it.”

The end of September is also scheduled to be the end of Jobkeeper payments, creating an urgency for a resolution, according to Ms McKay.

“We’re going to have a cliff that families, like Chantelle’s, are going to be standing on and we need to make sure that that support is in place,” she said.

And it is women, Ms McKay said, that need immediate employment opportunities at the moment, claiming the government was focusing too much on stimulus packages that benefit the return of men to work, like construction.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that this has had a disproportionate long-term impact on women,” she said.

“We had 155,000 women who left the workforce [during the pandemic], compared to 114,000 men.”

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