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Wrexham and Denbighshire in North Wales and Pembrokeshire in West Wales have between them lost over 400 childcare places over the past year. While Monmouthshire in South Wales has seen the biggest fall with a loss of 235 childcare places.
However cities such as Swansea and Cardiff saw increases of 679 and 563 childcare places, according to the Annual Report of The Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).
The report revealed that 94 per cent of childcare and open access play met the required standard of care.
Imelda Richardson, Chief Inspector of Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales said: “We have achieved some important milestones with the legislative agenda over the year, which will have a positive impact on people, and in particular I welcome the announcement of the 30 hour free childcare offer in Wales which will give children the best start in life.
“Childcare providers and the sector have responded positively to meet the new laws and inspections with ratings from this April, and can build on these solid foundations in supporting the new offer through accessible quality care to support working parents.”
Under its new inspection arrangements, inspectors are now carrying out longer visits, speaking to children, parents and staff, observing children and staff interaction as well as looking at child records and other information to check they are regularly kept up to date, such as child protection policies, statement of purpose, first aid, fire risk assessments and DBS certificates.
Since April 2016, CCSIW’s new inspection programme has reduced the frequency of inspections with the majority of their inspections continuing to be unannounced. Full day care services will be inspected at least once in every two years and other childcare services - child minders, sessional day care, and open access play, crèches and out of school care at least once in every three years.
In response to the report, National Day Nurseries Association’s (NDNA) chief executive, Purnima Tanuku, said: “We welcome CSSIW’s focus on quality of childcare provision which is now widely recognised as giving a child the best start in life and reducing the achievement gap. The report acknowledges the high quality of provision generally within the country.
“However, we are very concerned with the reduced number of childcare places in some local authorities. Our own NDNA Cymru Annual Survey reported that occupancy levels in nurseries in Wales are the lowest in the UK, and revealed that many are seriously struggling to be sustainable.
“The Welsh Government must make the sustainability of good quality, flexible childcare which works for parents a priority ahead of their plans to give parents 30 hours of free childcare per week.”
She called for a greater level of investment into the 30 hours free childcare initiative, adding “Nurseries want to be able to offer free childcare to support parents and families, but these plans need to be thoroughly costed and funded accordingly. Our latest Annual Survey showed that nurseries currently delivering free childcare places have an average shortfall of £863 per child.”