Funding for the early childhood sector to allow free childcare for workers across Australia while the COVID-19 pandemic wears on seems like "a glorified baby-sitting package at best", a Hunter early education centre owner says.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that his government would fund free childcare places for families that had parents who were working, studying or looking for a job
The places that are part of the $1.6 billion package are expected to be available from Monday, with the government paying 50 per cent of the sector's fee revenue up to a certain cap.
Sharon Jobbins, the owner-director of Making Waves Early Education Centre at Warabrook, said her initial reaction was that she was grateful for support for the sector, but she believed the measures should have gone further.
"This will be enough for us to offer a bare-bones basic package, which is not fair to the children who will be going to school in 2021," she told the Newcastle Herald after Thursday's announcement.
"I feel like what they're offering now is not going to be a quality early childhood education and care package - I feel like it's essentially going to be a baby-sitting package to keep Australians at work.
"I can appreciate that, however our sector has been overlooked for some time and major reform was due a decade ago. These are long-term issues that haven't been addressed."
Ms Jobbins said she believed the funding should have been back-dated further and staff who have been put out of work should be treated in the same manner as teachers in primary and high schools would be in similar circumstances.
Her business "took a big hit early on", losing thousands of dollars in the first week of coronavirus restrictions when she told parents they would not be charged their fees - she said it was a matter of "civic responsibility" - as the number of children attending the centre fell hourly.
Ms Jobbins said her business had gone from having 70 kids at the site on Tuesday three weeks ago to 17 this week.
She said she was thankful for any sort of bail-out package in the tough circumstances, because her centre had recently faced the prospect of having to close its doors.
Last Friday, its financial position meant she had to make the jobs of two experienced and highly qualified early childhood educators redundant. Four more staff members are likely to be stood down today.
"We're shattered," Ms Jobbins said.
"We don't consider Making Waves a business - it's a family. I've had six families volunteer to pay their fees anyway [even though they planned to keep their children home] in the hope that we can keep some of our staff."
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
- Cardiff business fined $5000 for breaching coronavirus conditions
- Only a handful of Newcastle Airport flights after Jetstar axes all routes
- 'You are safer outside than inside': Disease expert criticises restrictions
- The coronavirus crisis in Newcastle and the Hunter
- NSW isolation rules to last 90 days
- Stay up-to-date with our daily COVID-19 Informer newsletter