A pilot project offering 30 hours of free early childcare per week to 3 and 4 year olds has begun in Flintshire.
The pilot will test all aspects of the new Childcare Offer for Wales to ensure it will be accessible to parents and sustainable in the long-term once rolled out.
Flintshire along with Gwynedd, Anglesey, Swansea, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf have worked with Welsh Government to develop local models for the national roll out of the funded childcare offer.
The offer provides 30 hours a week of government funded early education and childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds in Wales, for up to 48 weeks of the year.
The current 10 hours a week free early education provided by Foundation Phase forms part of the 30 hours total.
Communities and Children Secretary, Carl Sargeant said:
“Parents, particularly women tell us problems in securing affordable childcare is one of the biggest obstacles to seeking paid employment. This is why providing 30 hours of government funded childcare to working parents of 3 and 4 year olds for 48 weeks a year, is one of the key priorities for this government.
Affordable, available and accessible childcare will enable parents to work, supporting our drive to increase economic growth, tackle poverty and reduce inequalities. It will also provide opportunities and long-term benefits for our children and improve their life chances.
This is a very important commitment so we are determined to get it right. This is why we are testing the offer very carefully and why these pilot schemes will be so valuable in helping us understand how best to make it work for parents, providers and children.”
The initial areas for the Flintshire pilot are: Buckley, Bagillt and Broughton and within areas of Aston, Connah’s Quay (Central and Golftyn), Garden City, Greenfield, Higher Shotton, Holywell (Central), Mancot, Queensferry and Sandycroft.
This will test the offer in areas of low and high employment, across travel to work routes, including travel outside Wales and through a mixture of maintained and non-maintained settings.
To date, Flintshire has received 152 applications and has been successful in automating the application process enabling parents to register on line and self-select registered childcare providers from the registered 122 providers.
This online system has been reviewed by Welsh Government who deem it cost effective and compliant with data protection requirements.
The original figure of 441 children in Flintshire to receive the 30 hours of free childcare is to be extended to a potential 748 children.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Social Services, Councillor Christine Jones, said:
“I am delighted that Flintshire has developed and implemented this exciting pilot scheme for young children and their parents. The work done to date has been outstanding and there is continuing work to ensure that the scheme is a success.
An advisory group has been established in Flintshire and it meets regularly to develop the offer and provide guidance and direction to the project team.
The advisory group has representatives from organisations such as Flying Start, Family Information Service, Early Entitlement, childcare development and childcare umbrella organisations.”