Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
I am pleased to confirm the childcare offer for Wales will reopen to applications in August and September.
This government was elected on a pledge to provide 30 hours of early education and childcare to the working parents of three and four-year-olds for 48 weeks per year. This has been available throughout Wales since April last year and around 14,600 children were taking up the childcare offer in January 2020.
We had to take the unprecedented step of pausing the childcare offer to new entrants on 1 April as a result of the coronavirus pandemic as we focused resources on supporting the childcare needs of critical workers and vulnerable children through the Coronavirus Childcare Assistance Scheme (C-CAS).
I want to thank our local authorities for the way they have run C-CAS and supported families with diverse and often complex needs. Childcare providers have been fantastic – many stayed open when the virus was at its peak to ensure critical workers were able to contribute effectively to the national effort against the pandemic.
Since 22 June, childcare providers have been able to care for more children and increase their operations or re-open fully.
As schools prepare to reopen to all learners from September, parents and childcare providers will also want certainty about the childcare offer.
We have been working with our partners to explore options for restarting the offer. It will open again for applications for childcare during August and September.
Parents who would have been eligible for the offer in the summer term, but who missed out on a full-term because they had not started taking up the offer before the pandemic, will be able to submit their applications from mid-August.
Applications from parents whose child becomes eligible for the offer in the autumn term will be considered from the start of September onwards. Details on the timing and how to apply will be available on local authority websites.
Parents can take up a funded place once their local authority has processed their application and they are eligible.
Local authorities will be able to draw on the additional support grant to ensure any child with additional needs can benefit from the offer in the same way as other children. These are the same arrangements, which were in place before the pandemic.
Local authorities will be working hard to ensure children can access the offer as soon as possible. They will inevitably be dealing with a large number of applications over a short period of time and we know that some families’ circumstances will have changed significantly over the past few months. It may take longer to approve applications than normal in some areas.
I hope this announcement will help parents and providers to plan, with more certainty, for the future.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.