As part of his five year plan the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones has set out his government’s commitment to supporting a prosperous and secure Wales by “Removing barriers to employment by creating the most generous childcare offer anywhere in the UK, providing 30 hours free childcare a week for working parents of 3- and 4-year-olds, 48 weeks of the year”.
The Welsh Government recognises that affordable, available and accessible childcare enables parents to work, supporting the drive to increase economic growth, tackle poverty and reduce inequalities. It also provides opportunities and long-term benefits for our children and improves their life chances. This is why developing a flexible and quality childcare offer is a top priority for the Welsh Government.
What happens currently?
Parents of 3 and 4 years olds can already access early education for at least 10 hours a week during school term time – this is called the Early Years Foundation Phase.
How will that change?
The Welsh Government have now committed to offering working parents of 3 and 4 year olds free childcare on top of the Early Years Foundation Phase – to provide a total of 30 hours a week of free early education and childcare, for 48 weeks of the year.
The Welsh Government want the offer to be as clear and easy to access as possible, for parents and providers. It must also allow parents to continue to choose the providers that best suit their circumstances; as long as they are registered with CSSIW and therefore meet the national minimum standard for registered childcare. The Welsh Government will be looking closely at the availability and accessibility of childcare in different parts of Wales and seeing if it matches what parents need. They will also be looking at the childcare issues and barriers facing parents and providers and what can be done to overcome them.
Once the offer is developed, it will be tested in some local authority areas from the autumn of 2017 to make sure it works for parents and childcare providers, followed by wider roll-out.
The aim is for the childcare offer to be a catalyst for a wider transformation in the childcare sector, increasing the accessibility, affordability and availability of childcare for all parents and children of all ages, improving the flexibility and quality of what’s available. This will build on the other support we currently provide for childcare providers including:
- Providing Local Authorities with £2.3m funding each year since 2012 to help them to provide wrap around childcare out of school hours and during holidays. In line with our priorities, Local Authorities have focused on offering out of school childcare, including holiday play schemes, to children from low income families and those with specific needs;
- Providing over £4.3 million over three years to the CWLWM consortia, comprising the five main childcare organisations in Wales, to support the childcare sector and help us develop innovative flexible childcare solutions to meet the needs of families;
- Securing £6.3m within West Wales and the Valleys, jointly funded by Welsh Government and the European Social Fund, to support the raising of skills and standards across the existing childcare workforce;
- Working with CSSIW to ensure the National Minimum Standards are fit for purpose and that the regulation and inspection ensures that children and parents in Wales can access safe, quality childcare;
- The funding for the Family Information Service (FIS) is provided in the Core Grant (revenue Support Grant) we give to local authorities each year. The FIS provide free, impartial help, support, guidance and advice to families and childcare providers.
- Providing business advice and support to childcare providers through Business Wales.
- Investing a total of £33.3 million in capital funding in developing childcare provision through the expansion of the Flying Start programme (between 2012-2016). Aimed at 2-3 year olds in Flying Start areas, these facilities are also being used by other childcare groups in collaboration with schools and community groups.
How you can get involved
The Welsh Government wants to hear from childcare providers across the private, public and voluntary sectors in shaping this childcare offer.
They will be looking at the information collated through the Self Assessment of Service Statement (SASS) which was sent out by CSSIW and should have been completed by all registered childcare providers. They also want to hear about your direct experiences of delivering childcare and test with you how the childcare offer could work and what it will take to deliver the offer in your local area.
Welsh Government officials have already visited some childcare providers to discuss the childcare offer. They have met with some local authorities, childcare umbrella bodies and parents. They intend to undertake much wider discussions over the coming months and all groups will have an opportunity to contribute their views.
The Welsh Government recently launched the Talk Childcare campaign on social and traditional media, giving you a voice and the opportunity to let them know what issues are important to you in delivering flexible childcare and running a sustainable business. As part of Talk Childcare they will be meeting with Wales PPA and other umbrella bodies, representative groups and providers to discuss the potential and implications of the childcare offer. These opportunities will be promoted by Wales PPA and through your local Family Information Service. Look out for opportunities to get involved.
In the meantime, if you want to talk to us at Wales PPA about the offer please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org You can also contact the Welsh Government at any time by e-mailing Talkchildcare@wales.gsi.gov.uk