Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care
In September 2017, we began delivery of our Childcare Offer in seven early implementer local authorities across Wales. Our offer, which commits to providing 30 hours of early education and childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds for 48 weeks of the year, is an ambitious one. This programme of early implementation is central to ensuring the offer meets the needs of children, parents and providers once rolled out across Wales in September 2020.
I would like to update Assembly Members on the progress across our early implementers, and outline some of our next steps in developing the offer.
Early implementation is currently underway in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Flintshire, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Swansea. Blaenau Gwent is the only one piloting the offer across the whole authority. In the others, the offer is available in agreed areas, enabling us to test a range of aspects and issues impacting delivery and take-up. Learning from these early implementers will be important in helping us fine-tune policies and systems prior to a wider roll-out. This is why we appointed NatCen and Arad back in August to undertake a rigorous and independent evaluation of the early implementation.
Interest in the offer from parents has been strong, with 50% of anticipated autumn term applications received by the end of September. Initial feedback from eligible parents accessing the offer and childcare providers has generally been positive. Parents are reporting that it is already making a difference to their lives, reducing the strain on family income and helping ensure childcare is not a barrier to them taking up employment or increasing their hours.
This is a new offer and will take time to fully establish itself. The early implementer local authorities have been promoting and raising awareness of the offer and targeting those parents who have not already applied. We are also working closely with them to better understand some of the reasons behind parents’ decisions not to access the offer. However, given the demand led nature of this new offer, it is crucial that we test, learn and adapt accordingly as we look to expand and roll-out the offer over the coming years. Having closely reviewed the take-up rates over recent months, I have decided that we are in a position to expand the current eligible areas in order to maximise the learning and spend from the first year of implementation. Following detailed discussions with the early implementer local authorities over which areas, numbers of children and cost, I am pleased to inform members that we are planning to extend the offer to the following areas over the coming months:
|Early implementer local authority||Expansion areas||Receiving applications from:||Delivery from:|
|Anglesey||Includes following areas; Valley 2, Trearddur 1 and 2, Llanfihangel Esceifiog, Brynteg, Llanbedrgoch, Pentraeth, Amlwch rural, Bodorgan, Llanfair yn Neubwll 1 and 2, Aberffraw and Rhosneigr 1, Parc ar Mynydd, Llaneilian, Moelfre, Llanfaethlu, Mechell||December 2017||January 2018|
|Gwynedd||Well-being area of Caernarfon. Includes following wards; Bethel, Bontnewydd, Cadnant, Clwt y Bont, Cwm y Glo, Deiniolen, Groeslon, Llanberis, Llandwrog, Llanllyfni , Llanrug, Llanwnda, Menai (Caernarfon), Peblig (Caernarfon), Penisa’r waun, Pen-y-groes, Seiont , Talysarn, Waunfawr, Clynnog.||November 2017||December 2017|
|Well-being area of Penllyn, which includes Bala, Llandderfel, and Llanuwchllyn||November 2017||January 2018|
|Caerphilly||Wellbeing Area of Caerphilly Basin wards: Aber Valley; Bedwas; Trethomas; Machen; Llanbradach; Morgan Jones; Penyrheol; St James; and St Martins.||November 2017||January 2017|
|Wellbeing Area of Lower Islwyn, wards: Abercarn; Crosskeys; Risca East; Risca West; and Ynysddu.||November 2017||January 2017|
|Flintshire||Wards of Connah’s Quay South, Connah’s Quay, Wepre, Flint Castle, Flint Coleshill, Flint Oakenholt, Flint Trelawny, Holywell East, Holywell West, Saltney Mold Junction, Saltney Stonebridge||November 2017||November 2017|
|Wards of Hope, Caergwrle and Higher Kinnerton||December 2017||January 2017|
|Swansea||We are working with Swansea on potential expansion areas. Further details will be published on the Local Authority, and Welsh Government’s webpages in due course.||To be confirmed – will be announced on the local authority’s website||January 2018|
|Rhondda Cynon Taf||Wards of Ynyshir and Pontyclun||December 2017||January 2018|
I am very grateful to the early implementer local authorities for their hard work to date. They have worked with us to develop and deliver the policy, including the eligibility criteria for parents, the application process, and the payment methods for childcare providers.
I would also like to thank the childcare sector for their support including the positive way they have worked with us to ensure there is a good awareness of the childcare offer and the feedback on their experience so far of delivering the offer. The second phase of our successful #TalkChildcare campaign is about engaging further with childcare providers, through online questionnaires, focus groups and direct consultation.
We have committed to fully roll-out the Childcare Offer by September 2020. As part of the Draft Budget, the funding to support the childcare offer increases to £25m in 2018-19, and to £45m in 2019-20. This will allow us to expand and test aspects of the delivery of the offer in other local authorities from September 2018 onwards. As part of this, I will be expecting those new local authorities coming on board to work with either existing or neighbouring local authorities in delivering the offer to build on best practice and ensure economies of scale.
I look forward to continued joint working as we expand and deliver this offer to parents and children across Wales.