Playcentre families, upset by last week’s Budget, have been taking their fight to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
Photo: RNZ Insight/John Gerritsen
Over the weekend, many Playcentre mothers have expressed their anger on Ardern’s Facebook page.
They say funding they received in the Budget is insulting, and it puts about 100 centres at risk of closure.
Playcentre educates more than 7 percent of New Zealand’s pre-schoolers, yet receives less than one percent of the government’s funding for the early childhood education sector.
There are more than 420 playcentres in the country, with about a third serving rural areas.
Its national body, Playcentre Aotearoa, said it is those centres that are the most vulnerable.
General manager Sean McKinley said the Budget has given Playcentre a total increase of $3.1 million over four years.
“The $3.1 million we have received amounts to approximately $675,000 a year for our organisation, or $1685 per centre per year.
“We appreciate the new funding, but it comes after a long period of underfunding in which we received only a 3.1 percent total increase in funding over seven years.”
“We need significantly more than that. We’ve got over 400 centres, many of them in rural locations,” he told Morning Report.
McKinley said if Playcentre is to remain viable under its current funding, services will have to be cut.
“This will involve making staff redundant, decreasing support for our volunteer workforce and, most likely, closing centres that we can no longer afford to subsidise in high need areas of the country.
“Families are feeling outraged by what they see as a lack of good faith on the part of the government.”
He said the movement plays an enormous role in the lives of tamariki, whānau and communities, and parents are prepared to fight for its survival.
“Last financial year we saw an increase of 16 percent in our membership numbers. we have very successful centres out there with waitlists that unfortunately, we cant run the sessions for those people because we are not able to pay the staff.”
It was about being able to provide the Playcentre option for parents, McKinley said.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said Playcentre hadn’t had a funding increase since 2006, “so we do know they are experiencing some financial difficulties”.
But Playcentres are dealing with a complex situation – households with both parents going off to work.
Playcentres struggle because it’s a model based on parents going in with their kids and that’s been a struggle in this economy before the Covid lockdown and it’s put Playcentres under the squeeze.
“They have changed their qualification requirements for parents who are engaging with Playcentre, made the thresholds a bit higher for those parents, so they are dealing with a whole lot of things.
“There’s goodwill there, we want to see Playcentre survive and thrive into the future, so we’ll keep talking to them about how we can do a better job of supporting them.”