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Sydney news: NSW Government announces $1.4 billion for preschool subsidies and early childhood health checks

Sarah Mitchell has announced subsidies for children who attend preschool in a daycare setting. (ABC News: Timothy Swanston)

Here's what you need to know this morning.

Child development package

Premier Dominic Perrottet has announced a developmental program for children. (News Video)

The New South Wales government has announced a $376.5 million investment in child development and family support as part of its 2022-23 state budget.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the "Brighter Beginnings" package will provide all children with a full suite of developmental checks before they start school.

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell says the program aims to improve behavioural and academic outcomes for children. 

"Almost half of all 4-year-old children do not get their recommended health and development checks, so making these available in every New South Wales early childhood service will open the door to brighter futures for thousands of children," Ms Mitchell said.  

The "Brighter Beginnings" package includes:

  • $111.2 million to bring health and development checks to all children in New South Wales preschool settings, in partnership with health professionals
  • $98.7 million to continue and expand the number of Aboriginal Child and Family centres across the state
  • $70.9 million to expand the transformational "Sustaining NSW Families" clinical nurse home-visiting program 
  • $57.2 million to develop the clinical interface of the digital baby book
  • $38.6 million to make pregnancy family conferencing available to more parents across NSW.

Daycare fee reforms

Parents will receive money back from daycare fees under a new program. (AAP: Dean Lewins)

Parents who send their children to preschool at privately run long daycare centres will get up to $2,000 off their fees from next year, after a relief payment from the state government.

In the upcoming state budget, the government will spend $1.4 billion over four years, which will go to preschool providers for them to take off annual fees.

This means parents with children, aged 4 and 5, will get up $2,000 off their childcare bill, while parents sending their children to state government-funded community preschools will get up to $4,000 subtracted from their fees.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell says it is the first time long daycare centres have been included in fee relief and it's in addition to the Commonwealth subsidy.

"It's really about making sure our preschool programs are affordable," she said.

The money is in addition to $5 billion announced on Tuesday to help subsidise extra daycare centres.

Energy warnings

Experts are warning the energy shortfall could last for many more months. (Supplied: AGL)

Energy experts are warning there could be further electricity supply shortfalls for the rest of the year.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) yesterday directed generators to fill supply gaps, amid warnings of possible power outages in New South Wales and Queensland on Tuesday night.

Price caps for wholesale electricity were put in place in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia after power prices soared.

Associate Professor in energy economics Liam Wagner said there was no immediate solution in sight.

"I think it could go on for the rest of the winter, if not longer," he said.

"If we have an unusually hot summer, we're going to be in the same place that we're in now."

Emergency wait times blow out

Ambulance response times were down in the first quarter of 2022. (AAP: Tim Pascoe )

Between January and March of this year, people in New South Wales waited longer in emergency departments — and priority cases had the longest wait times for ambulances — since records begun.

The Bureau of Health Information (BHI) has today released its latest quarterly health care report, which demonstrates how the system struggled during a peak in Omicron COVID-19 cases at the time.

The most serious of cases (Priority 1A) had the longest median response time for an ambulance (8.8 minutes) and lowest percentage of responses within the 10-minute target (60.2 per cent) of any quarter since the BHI began reporting in 2010.

Emergency Department (ED) attendance was well above what it was five years ago and around 70 per cent of patients were seen on time.

But just a quarter of patients in ED requiring admission to hospital were admitted within four hours and one in 10 spent longer than 18 hours and 29 minutes in the ED.

This is an increase from 13 hours and 25 minutes in 2019.

BHI chief executive Dr Diane Watson said the results showed the impact of relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

"January to March saw the suspension and subsequent resumption of some non-urgent, elective surgery and the relaxing of public health restrictions,” Dr Watson said.

“As the health system adapted, it continued to experience fluctuations in hospital and ambulance activity and performance.”

Newcastle fire

Fire investigators are this morning on the scene of a fire that caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to a business in Newcastle, north of Sydney, late yesterday.

Around 20 workers were forced to flee the Lovells Springs business in Carrington around 5:30pm, when fire broke out in a workshop containing highly flammable powder coating paint.

A 49-year-old employee who attempted to fight the flames with an extinguisher was taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation.

Teachers strike possible

Angelo Gavrielatos says a 3 per cent pay rise for teachers is not enough. (ABC News)

The teachers union says it is not ruling out further strike action if the New South Wales government fails to act on wages and staff shortages by next week.

Both the NSW Teachers Federation and the Independent Education Union held meetings yesterday, calling on the state government to revise its wages policy and negotiate an outcome, to put an end to teacher shortages.

Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said a 3 per cent pay rise for public sector workers announced by the government last week was not good enough.

"We will not rule out any further action should the government fail to act," he said.

"This has now reached the point where both unions are coming together, a historic meeting of both unions to deal with this crisis."

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