‘Childcare deserts’: NSW government’s $5bn boost to sector may ‘empower women’ | Childcare Australia

Childcare advocates and those working to boost the number of mothers in the workforce have welcomed a $5bn boost to the sector that the New South Wales government will use to target areas with a shortage of places.

The premier, Dominic Perrottet, described the policy as a “once-in-a-generation reform” that would create 47,000 different childcare spots and drive $17bn in economic activity a year.

The state will spend an initial $775m over four years and up to $5bn over a decade to encourage childcare centers to expand into “childcare deserts” like western Sydney. The government will target areas with limited access to centers or where a shortage of childcare places exists.

The policy was the key recommendation for the state government by an economic advisory panel of women led by the president of Chief Executive Women, Sam Mostyn.

“I hope it is a prompt and steward for work to be done nationally to ensure that we can once and for all deal with empowering women and families and children to be full participants in an economy, which to date has held back women,” Mostyn said.

Advocates welcomed news of the funding while noting some details were lacking.

The Western Sydney Women founder, Amanda Rose, said the move to address the lack of childcare across western suburbs was critical because failing to do so was holding women back.

“When women aren’t involved in the workforce, their financial stability and independence is gone, which means they’re staying in relationships they shouldn’t be, they’re not advancing, they’re not breaking generational wealth issues,” Rose said.

“Not having the childcare is going to delay their independence and delay their future every year.”

The treasurer, Matt Kean, said the policy would eventually slash about $3,900 off the annual childcare bill for a family by making providers compete for funding by proving they would offer more affordable places.

“This fund will be available to exist providers who wish to lower the cost of childcare for their existing customers,” he said.

Childcare deserts

“If they want to propose ways that they’re going to significantly decrease the cost of delivering care, then they can compete for this money.”

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He said the policy worked “hand in glove” with the federal government’s plans to address disincentives in the current structure of subsidies.

Rose said she hoped there were sufficient incentives in the plan to get providers into areas where they were not currently.

“My concern is that a private childcare entity, will they be interested in providing childcare centers in places in western Sydney if the amount’s capped and they can’t make a profit like they want to?” she said.

The savings for families will not be felt for some time, with the government making plain this was a long-term reform plan that would not bring immediate relief to families – a point seized on by the opposition leader, Chris Minns.

“They might have long-term plans, but we need to worry about the family budget over the next month, six months, and year,” Minns said.

The teacher and author Daisy Turnbull, who has long advocated for better access to childcare and was also on the panel, said she was pleased the policy would open up 47,000 childcare spots. Hence, more kids access the service’s social and developmental benefits.

“Children learn through experience,” she said. “They are learning the skills of being with other kids. The best thing parents can do is send their kids to childcare.”

The chief executive for early childhood advocacy group The Front Project, Jane Hunt, said the scale of the investment would help push other states to reform their systems.

“We need to see the detail, but it’s a significant step forward to ensure that the system can deliver affordability and access to children,” she said.

The Early Childhood Australia chief executive, Samantha Page, said the investment would help address some of the major barriers to childcare, including access and cost.

“Cost has been a major barrier in women’s workforce participation and, once rolled out, the initiative should boost their participation in the workforce, resulting in positive economic outcomes for all,” she said.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.