18 Dec 2017, Catherine Gaunt
Parents of three- and four-year-olds in Wales will be eligible for 30 hours a week of early education and childcare for up to 48 weeks a year.
The Childcare, Play and Early Years workforce plan sets out the Welsh Government’s vision to professionalise the childcare and play workforce and attract new people into the sector, ensuring they have the right skills and qualifications, and supporting new and existing businesses to grow.
The government will be working with the Childcare Wales Learning and Working Mutually (CWLWM) consortium, which is made up of the five main childcare organisations in Wales, and is led by Mudiad Meithrin, which runs 500 Welsh-medium playgroups and 400 mother and toddler groups. The other organisations in the consortium are are Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids’ Clubs, National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA Cymru), PACEY Cymru and Wales Pre-School Providers Association (Wales PPA) .
The plan’s three key priorities are:
Launching the plan,minister for children and social care, Huw Irranca-Davies said, ‘The provision of affordable, accessible, quality early years provision, available at the times parents need it, plays an essential role in boosting the economy, helping parents to return to work and creating further employment opportunities within the childcare sector itself.
‘Those who care for our youngest children play a vital role in helping us give our children a flying start in life. High-quality early education and childcare produces greater long-term benefits for our children and strongly influences their future life chances.
'Where the workforce is equipped with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to provide high-quality childcare and play, the effects on children can be profound, with particular benefits for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, or children who are disabled or have additional learning needs.
'The plan I’m unveiling today recognises the challenges the current economic climate presents to the sector and sets out clear and tangible actions to prioritise support to build the capability and capacity of the childcare workforce and the sector to drive our ambitions forward. It also sets out a longer term vision which is ambitious, but also essential if we want to enhance the quality of care we offer our children and to fully realise the potential of this committed sector and its workforce.’
The Welsh government has also announced the names of ten more areas that will pilot the 30-hours in Wales, joining the existing seven early implementer areas.
From this month the 30 hours will become available in parts of Flintshire and Gwynedd, and from from January it will expand into Anglesey, Caerphilly, and Swansea, and more areas in Gwynedd, and Flintshire.
In September, the Welsh Government began piloting the offer in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Flintshire, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Swansea. The offer is available in specific areas of these local authorities, and across the whole of Blaenau Gwent, enabling the government to test a range of aspects and issues impacting delivery and take-up.
As part of the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget 2018/19, the funding to support the childcare offer rises to £25m in 2018-19, and to £45m in 2019-20. The government said that this increase will allow for testing aspects of the delivery of the offer in some more local authorities from September 2018 onwards.
Mr Irranca-Davies said, ‘I’m really pleased with the strong interest the offer has received from parents so far. Parents are already telling us it’s 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.
‘I’m delighted to announce that I’ve given the go-ahead for the pilots to be expanded into new areas across Wales.’
The minister added, ‘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 the government’s #TalkChildcare campaign would continue to involve childcare providers, through online questionnaires, focus groups and direct consultation, he said.
Commenting on the plans, Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, ‘We welcome this plan to boost the early years and childcare sector which matches its ambitious Childcare Offer for Wales.
‘The Welsh Government is looking carefully at all aspects of the sector, from business support to training and development. NDNA Cymru is working closely with the Government as a CWLWM partner and also through our Childcare Works projects to get over 50s and unemployed under 24s to undertake a career in childcare. These projects have been praised by the government for attracting new entrants into the sector.
‘The biggest concern over the Childcare Offer for Wales remains capacity which hopefully this plan will build, along with quality childcare and early years education as well as true parental choice. Our own research shows there is capacity within the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) nursery sector which is untapped, so we would ask that this provision is used to the maximum to avoid duplication We want the existing nursery infrastructure to be strengthened and not threatened by this ten-year plan.
‘Nurseries have been supportive of the £4.50 rate given to providers within the pilot areas for 30 funded hours – but our latest pilots survey still showed sustainability as a big concern. We want to see more PVI nurseries engaged with future pilots.
‘We also want the rate for Foundation Phase to match that of the Childcare Offer for Wales to shore up the nursery sector and allow all PVI providers to be confident in offering 30 hours once it is rolled out.’
Claire Protheroe, direct services manager from PACEY Cymru said, ‘PACEY are pleased that the ambition from the Welsh Government includes childcare and play being seen as a valued career of choice. There is work required to support this cultural change in society and the clear references within the plan to the work of CWLWM and PACEY show how key partnership working is to take this forward alongside the other aims. PACEY Cymru has supported the development of this plan and we recognise the need to ensure this is a live document that evolves to meet the needs of the sector.
'PACEY will continue to work with key partners, and engage with members, to ensure the success of the plan over coming months and years. We hope to see DfE include a similar level of ambition and commitment to the workforce strategy still in development in England.’
Dr Gwenllian Lansdown Davies, Mudiad Meithrin chief executive, said, ‘A robust and pro-active workforce plan is integral to the expansion of early years provision (and the 30-hour childcare offer) in Wales, particularly where Welsh-medium and ALN provision is concerned.’