$500 voucher for families’ daily juggle


A new voucher scheme to help NSW parents with the cost of out-of-school care will help families “balance work and family life”, the premier says, as classes resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Dominic Perrottet unveiled the $155 million scheme on Monday, saying parents of primary school students will get access to $500 vouchers to help with the cost of before-and after-school care. 

Mr Perrottet said the vouchers would be a boost for families with kids in public primary schools due to start this week.

“We know that for parents, this pandemic has been incredibly tough, balancing homeschooling with work, we want to do whatever we can to improve the daily juggle,” told reporters on Monday.

“This $500 voucher will put a downward pressure on family budgets (and) importantly, help mums and dads balance work and family life.”

The government says the vouchers will be available through Service NSW, from February 28, via the same app used to distribute the Dine and Discover vouchers rolled out last year.

It is the latest in a series of moves to ready the state for the new school year, including the government distributing around eight million rapid antigen tests in preparation for classes.

Strict anti-virus protocols have also been implemented including improved ventilation, vaccinations, mask wearing, twice weekly RATS, and the segregation of year groups, it says.

Catholic school children returned to school on Monday, with state school pupils starting the year on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, deaths caused by COVID-19 fell back on Monday, with the state recording 27 fatalities in the 24 hours to 8pm Sunday — down from a record 52 deaths the previous day.

Positive COVID-19 tests were also lower at 13,026, down slightly from the 13,524 in the prior reporting period.

There are 2779 COVID patients currently in hospital, 185 of whom are in intensive care, NSW Health said.

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said nearly 40 per cent of adults have now received a booster shot, which was vital to protect against the Omicron strain.

Across NSW, more than 95 per cent of people over 16 have received one vaccine jab, and 94 per cent have had two doses.

“Two doses against the Omicron variant are not sufficient,” Ms Chant said.

“I can’t be clearer, please get the booster dose and get it as soon as possible.”

Also on Monday, Treasurer Matt Kean reiterated his plea for the federal government to provide further COVID-19 assistance for NSW businesses hit by Omicron over summer.

The state government has announced a $1 billion support package for businesses hit by the Omicron outbreak, but Mr Kean wants the federal government also to pitch in.

He said he has written to his federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg about the “huge burden” of Omicron on the state.

“The NSW government is doing its bit and will continue to call on the Commonwealth to stand by small businesses,” he said.

The new business support includes a payment of up to $5000 per week, or 20 per cent of payroll, for firms with a turnover between $75,000 and $50 million who suffered a 40 per cent downturn in January, and project to do the same in February.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns described the business package as “too little too late” for struggling NSW firms.

“It’s very very slow, business applications don’t open for another 15 days and payments won’t be paid for another 15 days after that,” Mr Minns said.

“You’ve got seven weeks since the Omicron wave smashed the NSW economy and some businesses will have to wait an extra month until money is in their account, it’s just not good enough.”