Welsh taskforce welcomed

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A group of experts has been set up in Wales to take the Welsh Assembly's childcare policies forward, emphasising its key role as a business advisor and lynchpin for economic development. The group will make sure that childcare businesses are given appropriate advice, use European Structural Funds in a more strategic way to build childcare provision, and take action to expand, train and develop the childcare workforce.

A group of experts has been set up in Wales to take the Welsh Assembly's childcare policies forward, emphasising its key role as a business advisor and lynchpin for economic development.

The group will make sure that childcare businesses are given appropriate advice, use European Structural Funds in a more strategic way to build childcare provision, and take action to expand, train and develop the childcare workforce.

The initiative, which arose out of discussions in the cabinet sub-committee on children and young people, was announced jointly by health and social services minister Jane Hutt and economic development minister Andrew Davies. The taskforce will be headed by Dr Brian Gibbons, deputy minister for economic development.

Ms Hutt, who chairs the sub-committee, said, 'Childcare cuts across several of the Assembly's key themes. Good-quality early years experiences have been shown to play a major role in increasing the life chances of children.

'Childcare is also a vital ingredient in the Assembly's economic agenda and is a major factor in removing barriers to parents and, in particular, mothers, working or training. It is central to our initiatives to deal with social deprivation and economic development.'

Economic development minister Andrew Davies said that childcare in Wales was 'important as a business sector in its own right, as well as a crucial factor in helping people into work'.

Early years organisations welcomed the taskforce. Thomas Memery, director of the Wales Pre-School Playgroups Association, described it as a positive step and said the Wales PPA 'would wish to participate fully'. He added, 'Running a playgroup is becoming increasingly difficult, particularly for those in deprived areas without adequate statutory sector support.

'The availability of focused business advice is vital to achieving sustainability and establishing a mixed economy of provision.'

Wendy Hawkins, director of Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids Clubs, which spearheads the development of out-of-school care in Wales, also welcomed the taskforce's creation. She said, 'It will enable people who wouldn't necessarily meet to discuss with each other. There has been a need for a strategic face to make working together a reality.'

Yvonne Griffith-Jones, director of education and training at the childcare charity Chwarae Teg, said the creation of the taskforce was timely because the Assembly's childcare action plan needed to be 'revisited' in the light of various strands of recent research findings.

Research into the barriers facing the development of services and the results of a survey of the childcare market by the Welsh Development Agency needed to be incorporated into thinking around the plan's implementation.

She added the charity expected to participate in the work of the taskforce.

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