How key workers and parents of vulnerable children can get help with childcare.
We have announced that the Childcare Offer for Wales, which provides eligible families with up to 30 hours of government funded early education and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, will be closed to children due to start after the Easter holidays. This is so that the funding can be used to support key workers with their childcare costs and support vulnerable children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will fund childcare costs for pre-school children (children aged from 0 to 5 years who do not have a school place) of key workers, excluding childcare provider retention fees. We will also continue to fund childcare provision for vulnerable children.
This is initially for a 3 month period, at which time it will be reviewed.
What this means
From 1 April local authorities will not accept or process any new applications for the Childcare Offer for a period of three months.
Children who were due to start accessing the Offer from the start of what would have been the summer school term will not do so until this suspension is lifted.
If you’ve already applied for the childcare offer
Your application will not be processed until after the suspension.
Childcare spaces are currently only available to key workers and vulnerable children.
If you’ve been told your child will get the Offer for the summer term
Your child will not start to receive the Offer until after the suspension.
Children already receiving the Offer
Where children were already eligible for and enrolled on the Offer before 18 March, we have committed to continue to pay for the hours of childcare booked under the Offer for a period of three months. This commitment was set out in a statement from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services made on 18 March.
If you’ve already booked extra hours of childcare for Easter holidays
We are honouring Childcare Offer payments to providers based on the hours booked for three months (18 March to 17 June). This includes (where a parent booked the holidays before 23 March) two additional weeks of holiday provision (up to 30 hours) for the weeks commencing 23 and 30 March.
Once the Easter holidays are over, provision will revert to the term time maximum of up to 20 hours.
When the new scheme starts
We will fund childcare costs for pre-school children of key workers incurred on or after 1 April 2020, including backdating payments where appropriate.
Households where a parent is a key worker are eligible for the scheme. This includes workers in refuges and other supported accommodation for victims of domestic abuse. Vulnerable children are also eligible.
Will it affect my benefits
Any funding you get from us towards your childcare costs could affect other benefits you get.
If you get tax-free childcare you need to report any changes to HMRC on GOV.UK when you reconfirm your details every 3 months.
This includes funding you get from us to help pay for childcare costs. You may be able to use tax-free childcare to pay for extra costs such as food, transport and retainer fees. You need to check with HMRC if you can claim these cost as part of tax-free childcare.
If you get the childcare part of Universal Credit you need to report any changes in your family or work life to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on GOV.UK.
If you get tax credits you need to report any changes in your family or work life to HMRC on GOV.UK. This includes funding from us to help pay for childcare costs.
Hours Welsh Government will pay for
The fund will cover care for out of hours and weekends. There is no limit to the amount of hours your children can be cared for.
Please contact your local Family Information Service to discuss your needs.
How to apply
Vulnerable children include those with safeguarding needs and supported by social care, which include children with care and support or support plans, children on the child protection register and looked after children, young carers, disabled children and those with Statements of special educational needs.
Key workers with school aged children
School aged children should be looked after at their school hub if they cannot be safely cared for at home.
The fund can only pay for the cost of their care if they have younger, pre-school siblings and your local authority agrees to keep them altogether.
As a key worker or having a vulnerable child, can I send my child to a different setting if my usual one is closed and I get the Childcare Offer?
Yes, we will fund your childcare costs apart from any retention fees charged by childcare providers.
Do key workers have to send their children to a childcare setting?
Many parents working in these critical sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. This is an offer to parents and carers and there is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to a childcare setting if they do not need or wish to do so.
I am a key worker, my child was due to start getting funded childcare under the Childcare Offer in the summer term, do I need to apply for the new scheme?
Yes, you will need to apply for the new scheme. To find out how and when to apply please contact your local Family Information Service.
My child is not attending childcare – why is the setting telling me that they will continue to charge me whilst closed?
The Welsh Government acknowledges that, in many cases, the insurance that early years providers have will not cover them for income lost during COVID-19-related closures. There is a range of support for businesses to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on them.
We are asking childcare providers to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents. The Welsh Government is keeping what further support businesses may require under close review.