A significant investment of nearly £100m is being made by the Welsh Government to improve childcare availability, boost Welsh language provision and fund free part-time places.
The funding includes £26m for the next phase of the expansion of part-time Flying Start childcare; £70m for improvements and essential maintenance available to all childcare settings and £3.8m to support more childcare providers to improve their Welsh language provision.
The investment is part of a phased plan to expand early years provision to all two-year-olds in Wales, with a particular emphasis on strengthening Welsh-medium provision, which is a commitment in the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.
Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan and Plaid Cymru Designated Member Siân Gwenllian announced the funding at a visit to Cylch Meithrin nursery in Abergele.
Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan said:
“Our continued investment in the childcare sector is helping to provide exceptional facilities for children across Wales as well as supporting long-term, positive impacts on the lives of children and families through the Flying Start programme.
“It is clear that high-quality provision in the early years supports child development and plays an important role in ensuring that every child has the best start in life and enjoys learning, expands their knowledge and fulfils their potential.I am particularly pleased to invest in Welsh language provision to grow both the number of Welsh medium settings and the number of Welsh speakers within the workforce.”
Plaid Cymru Designated Member Siân Gwenllian said:
“International evidence suggests that ensuring access to early years education and care is one of the most important steps we can take to give children the best start in life. By moving forward with the expansion of free childcare, as part of a phased approach to extend this to all two year olds, we can make a real difference to children’s formative years across Wales.
“Children learn and benefit so much from high quality childcare provision – what looks like simple play is actually an important educational experience where children learn and socialise in a supportive and nurturing environment. We look forward to continuing to work together with the Welsh Government to deliver this important commitment for all our communities.”
Flying Start helps families with young children in the most disadvantaged areas of Wales and includes free, part-time quality childcare for children aged two to three living in those areas.
In April, the Welsh Government announced up to 2,500 more children would be eligible for Flying Start services across Wales. This first phase of the programme began at the start of September across Wales.
Phase two of the expansion will make more than 3,000 additional two-year-old children eligible for Flying Start childcare from April 2023 with £11.65m allocated for 2023/24 and £14.3m for 2024/25. Local authorities are currently considering which areas will be included as part of phase two and eligible families will be contacted in the new year.
The £70m for improvements to facilities and essential maintenance is available for all registered childcare settings, which can apply through their local authority. Applications will range from small scale upgrades of outdoor space through to the building of new facilities.
The Welsh Government is also providing £3.8m of funding over the next three financial years to support childcare providers to enhance their Welsh medium provision. This support includes increasing the number of registered Welsh-medium after school clubs as well as training and support to practitioners to improve their Welsh and pass this learning on to the children in their settings.