Take-up of Flying Start scheme up by a third

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Major expansion of the Flying Start scheme in Wales so far has taken place during the last 12 months, latest figures show.

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Vaughan Gething opening a new Flying Start centre in Bridgend

During 2013-14, a third more families (33 per cent) with children under four in some of the poorest parts of Wales were on the caseload of a Flying Start health visitor than in 2012-13.

On average children assigned to a health visitor were seen 5.8 times during the year and a further two times by other members of the health team.

The figures showed that 31, 322 children were registered with the scheme in 2013-14, up from 23,579 for 2012-13.

The Flying Start programme offers free childcare for two- and three-year-olds, parenting support, an enhanced health visitor service and help for early language development.

More target areas for expansion will be added during the next two years.

Vaughan Gething, deputy minister for tackling poverty, said the figures showed that the scheme was on track to reach the target of 36,000 children by 2016, equivalent to a quarter of children under four.

However there was a fall in the number of children using childcare throughout Wales, from 90 per cent in 2012-13 to 86 per cent in 2013-14.

The report said,‘It should be noted that in some local authorities there has been relatively slow development into the expansion areas because of delays recruiting health visitors and in establishing new childcare settings.’

Opening two new Flying Start centres in Bridgend Mr Gething said, ‘I am delighted that in just a year the Welsh government has increased the number of children benefiting from the scheme by a third. We are well on the way to meeting our target.

‘Our commitment can be seen across the country where tens of thousands of children and their families are benefiting from local Flying Start services.’

The deputy minister opened one setting in Sarn in a former nursery school that will provide services for 60 children and has received Welsh government funding of £652,276.

A second centre in Blackmill is based in a new building and will provide facilities for another 16 children and received £537,591 in funding.