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Guidance for providers on the new digital service.

First published:
23 September 2021
Last updated:

What is the Childcare Offer for Wales national digital service?

The Childcare Offer for Wales is currently being delivered across Wales by local authorities who use different systems to process parent applications and pay childcare providers for Childcare Offer hours provided. The national digital service will replace those systems so that every local authority, parent and childcare provider will use one single service.

Why are you changing it?

As local authorities have been using their own systems to deliver the Childcare Offer, the experience of parents and childcare providers has differed across Wales, depending on where they live and which system their local authority uses.

For childcare settings providing care for children from different local authority areas, this has been problematic as they have needed to work with a number of different local authority systems and deal with a number of different payment schedules.

With the national digital service, parents will all use one service and have the same experience in their application process. Childcare providers will move towards working with just one system and one payment schedule, no matter which local authority area the children in their care live in.

The national digital service will also be fully bilingual, enabling those childcare providers and parents who wish to engage with the Childcare Offer through the medium of Welsh to do so.

When is it coming?

Parents applying for Childcare Offer hours to be provided in January 2023 will apply through the new service from the autumn term of 2022. Childcare providers will need to have created an account on the new service prior to that. We will provide further information on this page on when the service will open up for providers to create their accounts and will be sending information on this to childcare providers, via local authorities and CIW.

Will it be secure?

Yes the national digital service has been developed to the highest standard of data security. Details that parents and providers submit to create an account will only be accessible to local authority staff who have permission to access this service.

What do I need to do to get ready?

Look out for bulletins and emails from our partners CIW and Cwlwm, as well as from your local authorities. These will explain what you need to do to get ready and by when.

In registering for the new service, you will be prompted to sign in via Government Gateway. We will be using Government Gateway to verify identification. Government Gateway is a system used by many online Government services. If you already have a Government Gateway account, you can use your existing log-in these credentials at this point, or when registering on the digital service if you don’t have an existing account or would prefer to have a separate one for the Childcare Offer service already have a Government Gateway account, you can create an account here: Alternatively, you can create a new Government Gateway account when you come to register onto the new Childcare Offer service. .

You will also need your CIW Setting Instance Number (SIN), this can be found on your CIW online account and on any letter correspondence you have received from CIW.

In order to register, you will need the following information for the setting:

If you are registered with CIW:

  • Your setting’s CIW number, which can be found on the homepage for the setting on CIW online.
  • Your setting’s CIW SIN number, which can be found on CIW correspondence to your setting and can also be found on your provider’s homepage on CIW online as well as on the homepage for each individual setting;
  • The registered postcode of your setting
  • Details of the bank account into which the setting’s Childcare Offer payments should be made

If you are registered in England with Ofsted

  • Your setting’s Ofsted registration number (If you do not know your Ofsted number, please contact the Welsh local authority you usually deal with for advice).

You will also need to identify one lead person who will register the setting, this will be someone who is authorised to act on behalf of the business., e.g. the setting manager, to register each childcare setting. This individual should be a current member of staff with the authority and ability to receive and disseminate information on the Childcare Offer service to other staff members. They should also have access to the setting’s bank account information in order to provide details later on in the process, and will need to have that authority to accept the Terms & Conditions of the Childcare Offer. These set out the rules about claiming funding to cover the childcare you provide under the Offer. The lead person who registered the setting will be required to approve each staff member’s request to join the setting.

When do I need to register?

We are inviting childcare providers to register on the digital service on a weekly basis from 19 September.

You will be sent an email from your Local Authority childcare lead, which will contain a link to the childcare provider portal. Therefore, please keep a look out for emails from your Local Authority.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Providers in Gwynedd, Anglesey, Conwy, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Powys (Group 1) will receive the invitation to register from Monday 19th September
  • Providers in Swansea, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Wrexham (Group 2) will receive the invitation to register from Monday 26th September
  • Providers in Cardiff, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen (Group 3) will receive the invitation to register from Monday 3rd October
  • Providers in Caerphilly, Newport, Monmouthshire and Vale of Glamorgan (Group 4) will receive the invitation to register from Monday 10th October
  • Providers in RCT, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and NPT (Group 5) will receive the invitation to register from Monday 17th October

Will training on how to use the new service be available?

Yes, Welsh Government will be providing a short series of Live Events to deliver training on the new service.

The first of these was on how to register a setting and join an existing setting..

The second series of Live events will cover how to confirm agreements with parents and will take place on the following dates (Providers only need to attend one of the three sessions available):

Provider Agreements Live Event - Welsh language session on 13 Oct 18:30 to 20:00
Provider Agreements Live Event - English language session on 17 Oct 18:30 to 20:00
Provider Agreements Live Event - English language session on 18 Oct 10:00 to 11:30

The third series of Live events will cover how to claim payments and will take place on the dates below (Providers only need to attend one of the three sessions available):

Provider Claims Live Event - English language session on 5 Dec 18:30 to 20:00
Provider Claims Live Event - English language session on 6 Dec 10:00 to 11:30
Provider Claims Live Event - Welsh language session on 6 Dec 18:30 to 20:00

Online training videos will also be made available for providers who are unable to attend any of the sessions.

I’m not very confident with technology. Will there be help for me to use the new service?

You will be able to use the national digital service on mobile devices, such as tablets and even mobile phones. The service is being developed in close collaboration with childcare providers and parents to ensure that it is intuitive and simple to use. Step-by-step instructions will be available on-line to explain how to navigate the service. Later in the year, there will also be a webinar for childcare providers, which will outline the steps childcare providers will need to take in using the new service, e.g. how to register, how to submit payment claims and so on. We will be sending out information on this webinar closer to the time, and information will also be available on this page.

We have also worked with Digital Communities Wales (a Welsh Government funded project) to offer some general digital skills training specifically for childcare providers. These sessions are available as pre-recorded videos and as live training sessions using Zoom.

In addition we are working closely with local authorities to ensure there will be support available to help you work with the new service. Information on how to contact your local authority for support will be available soon.

Can I still use the current local authority Childcare Offer system(s)?

When the national digital service is rolled out in the autumn of 2022, all new parents will be applying through the national digital service, and payments for Childcare Offer hours provided for these children will only be made via the new service.

Children who are already accessing the Childcare Offer at the point of roll out will continue to remain on current local authority systems and payments for children within those systems will remain as they are now.

 

How will payments for the Childcare Offer be affected?

One of the benefits of the national digital service is fast and regular payments to childcare providers. Payments can be claimed weekly or monthly in arrears. The money should be in your bank account within 72 hours. (Please note that claims made through the Additional Support Grant route may take longer due to the need for the local authority to approve the payment)

Parents/children already accessing the Childcare Offer at the point of roll out of the new service will remain on the current LA systems. Therefore payments for those children will continue to be made through the LAs.

How will the parents of the children attending my setting know what to do?

Guidance will be available online to support parents to use the service to apply for and agree their Childcare Offer hours.

Local authority Family Information Services/childcare teams will continue to provide further support as required.

We will be providing local authorities with marketing materials to disseminate locally, including to childcare settings, to help promote the Childcare Offer and signpost parents to support and information.

Parents wishing to receive Childcare Offer funded childcare from January 2023

Parents wishing to receive Childcare Offer funded childcare from January 2023 will need to apply through the national digital Childcare Offer for Wales service. Further details on how to apply through the new digital service will be published when applications for the January 2023 intake open in November 2022.

Parents wishing to receive Childcare Offer funded childcare before January 2023

Parents wishing to receive Childcare Offer funded childcare before January 2023 will need to apply through their local Family Information Service.

Parents already accessing the Offer when the national digital service goes live in November 2022

Parents already accessing the Offer do not need to do anything and will remain within the legacy system. However, if they wish to receive Childcare Offer funding for another child from January 2023, they will need to apply via the national digital service.

As with childcare providers, we will ensure that support materials are made available to parents so that they know how to use the service and what they need to do to apply and book their Childcare Offer hours.

We are working closely with local authorities to ensure there will be support available to help parents with the new service.

We will be looking to provide marketing materials for childcare providers to display and/or share to help promote the Childcare Offer and signpost parents to support and information.

From autumn 2022, all communications from local authorities and Welsh Government to parents eligible for the Offer will point them towards the national digital service. This will be the only way for parents accessing Childcare Offer from January 2023 to apply. 

I look after children who need some additional support to access the Childcare Offer. Will funding for these children still be available through the Additional Support Grant?

Yes, funding for children requiring additional support will continue to be available via the Additional Support Grant. Please refer to the local authority guidance for further information on how this could be used.

Contact your local authority for further information or to discuss how to apply for this funding.

Who do I contact for more information about the national digital service?

For any queries or to get involved in developing and testing the new service, please contact Digital.Childcare@gov.wales

The local authority team that you currently work with will continue to support you as we move to working with the digital service.

For more general information for providers on the Childcare Offer Wales please read Childcare for 3 and 4 year olds: guidance for providers.