Six Local Authorities have been chosen to work with the Welsh Government to pilot the new Childcare offer, Communities and Children Secretary Carl Sargeant announced today.
Projects offering 30 hours of free early education and childcare per week to 3 and 4 year olds will be piloted from September 2017 in specified locations within Gwynedd, Anglesey, Flintshire, Swansea, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf. Gwynedd and Anglesey will be working together on a joint project. Other early adopter areas will be added as the work to pilot the scheme continues.
Speaking in the Assembly, the Cabinet Secretary said:
“One of the concerns working parents have raised with us time and again is the cost of childcare, and the impact that has on them, their finances and their quality of life.
“Since early summer we have been talking to parents. We’ve received feedback from more than 1,500 parents so far and we’ve held focus groups at workplaces and in communities across Wales. While this engagement will continue through till the spring, so far it’s clear parents want childcare to be less of a drain on family income, available at times and in places which make it easier for them to work; and more accessible, with support for their children’s needs.
“Our new childcare offer will combine our successful Foundation Phase provision during term times, with additional childcare. During the weeks of the year when the Foundation Phase is not provided, qualifying children will receive 30 hours of childcare, supporting working families with the costs of holiday care.
“Helping parents meet the costs of childcare is only part of the picture. We also need to address availability and accessibility”
“Our plan is to work with the sector to ensure that the offer provides as much flexibility as possible. We want to make, Welsh medium childcare a more attractive option for those who have not previously considered it; and to ensure sufficient provision for children requiring additional support to learn and develop.
“We will need to work all of this through with parents, providers and other stakeholders. But I’m also keen to get on with work on the ground, so I am pleased to be able to announce today that we will begin testing the offer in parts of six local authorities from September 2017.
“Testing the offer will allow us to make sure we learn what works and what doesn’t, building on experience and evidence to deliver for all working parents in Wales.”
“Delivering this commitment will be challenging and I don’t underestimate what needs to be done. The barriers childcare can present to parents supporting their families as they wish, must be addressed head-on.
“It makes no sense for parents to be earning less than their childcare costs. It makes no sense to have to turn down a promotion, or a better job, losing opportunities to improve your family’s circumstances, just because you can’t access childcare when and where you need it. We want parents to have employment choices.”