Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
On the 24 September, I provided an initial response to the Welsh Government Consultation on Proposed Changes to Childcare Regulation and Registration in Wales. I can now update Members on the outcome of the consultation. My officials have also completed a summary report of the responses received which will be placed on the Welsh Government website today.
The consultation, attracted considerable interest from the childcare sector. Over 130 written responses were received and over 80 representatives from the childcare sector, Local Authorities and youth sector attended consultation events held across Wales. More localised events aimed at providers were also held by the childcare and play organisations on behalf of Welsh Government.
I would like to thank to all those who responded and the childcare and play organisations for their support in ensuring a good representative response was received from stakeholders.
The main consultation centred on the Welsh Government’s proposals to extend the upper age limit for the compulsory registration of childcare beyond the age of 8 years. As I announced in September, from 1 April 2016 the upper age limit will be extended from 8 to 12 years. This will ensure there is a consistent means of regulating the quality and suitability of childcare provision up to the age of 12, will bring the system of registration in line with the other parts of the UK and align it with the new Tax Free Childcare scheme in 2017.
As part of the arrangements to implement the extension of registration, changes need to be made to the National Minimum Standards (NMS) for Regulated Child Care to ensure they take account of the requirements for older children. The consultation sought views on specific changes to the NMS to allow the extension of registration and also invited more general comments about the standards. The majority of responses supported our proposal for the changes to the NMS to be appropriate to the age of the child.
Specific changes to the revised NMS informed by feedback received to the consultation, will be issued early in 2016. However, the summary report containing the full Welsh Government response to the consultation, provides an overview of the changes being made, as well as detailing the specific changes and arrangements to the NMS for staffing ratios and qualifications.
In making these changes, I have carefully considered the consultation responses and the implications of the changes on the sustainability of the sector. I am aware of the considerable challenges which the childcare sector is currently facing in terms of sustaining existing provision. I value the positive and constructive manner in which all parts of the sector have responded to the consultation. I believe the changes we have set out, will achieve a balance between helping to ensure all children in registered childcare provision are cared for in a safe and appropriate environment and take account of the views and concerns expressed about the impact of any increased burdens on childcare providers and the associated implications for parents and carers.
We will look further at points raised in relation to other issues in the consultation responses received.
CSSIW is engaging extensively with the childcare sector to raise awareness about the extension of registration and the implications of the changes for providers and parents. As part of these arrangements, regional stakeholder events are being held later this month and early in December to discuss plans for the implementation of these changes.
I will continue to keep Members informed about matters arising from the consultation.