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Parents in Wales will be expected to pay extra for meals and trips as part of the new 30 hours ‘free’ childcare offer, which is being piloted in Anglesey and Gwynedd, Blaenau Gwent, Flintshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea and Caerphilly.
The Welsh Government has revealed that parents will be able to choose where their child receives the additional ‘free’ childcare hours, with each provider receiving £4.50 per hour per child.
The 30 hours of ‘free’ childcare is being offered to working parents of three and four-year-olds in Wales. First Minister Carwyn Jones has called it the “most generous childcare offer anywhere in the UK”.
Currently children in Wales can access early education for at least 10 hours a week during school term time as part of the Early Years Foundation Phase.
The 30 hours a week ‘free’ childcare will be available in Wales for 48 weeks of the year. In England, the 30 hours for working parents, due to be implemented in September, will only be available 38 weeks of the year.
Funding rate welcomed
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA (National Day Nurseries Assocation), welcomed the funding rate for the pilot areas, saying: “We are very pleased that the Welsh Government has taken on board some of the recommendations from our Annual Survey. These include funding following the child, increased hourly funding rates and our Childcare Passport online account to pool all funding streams.
“Following years of campaigning for the funding rate in Wales to adequately reflect the real cost of delivering quality childcare, we are hopeful that this new rate will allow as many nurseries as possible to participate.”
NDNA published survey results in April showing that nurseries in Wales are paid the lowest rate in the UK for Foundation Phase at an average of £3.15 per child per hour, resulting in nursery businesses having to absorb what it called "unsustainable losses".
Ms Tanuku added: “News that the full £4.50 will be paid to providers without local authorities removing administration costs will be well received. Virtual accounts, similar to the Childcare Passport proposal that NDNA suggested, may be planned during the piloting.
“In addition, the Welsh Government has said nurseries can charge parents up to £7.50 per day for meals and to make further costs for activities and trips.
“Parents can also choose where their child receives their free hours which is a big step forward, having campaigned for local authorities to work more with private and voluntary nurseries.”
Concern over two different rates
However NDNA Cymru expressed concerns that the Foundation Phase hours which comprise the education element of funded childcare will not be paid for at the new rate of £4.50.
“Having two different rates, one for early years education in Foundation Phase and one for childcare makes no sense.
“There is a risk that private providers drop out of offering Foundation Phase altogether. Parents should be offered the choice for both types of provision. It’s time we had a seamless process so children do not need to be switched from one setting to another during the course of a day.
“We hope that these issues can be looked at carefully and all solutions tested thoroughly during these pilots,” said Ms Tanuku.
The childcare offer is being piloted in Wales from September 2017.