As part of their vision for an Opportunity Economy, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are today announcing that they are the only party offering free childcare for families with children aged nine months and over.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats will offer ten hours a week of free childcare to all working parents from the end of paid parental leave (nine months) until age 2 and ten hours a week of free childcare to all children age 2-3. They will also extend the statutory entitlement to early education to fifteen hours a week for all 3-4 year olds.
Currently in Wales there is no childcare provision for children aged between 0-2 and limited provision for those age 2-3 in Flying Start areas only. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are the only party proposing to extend free childcare from the end of paid parental leave.
Aled Roberts AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Minister, is on Monday launching the policy at Sapling’s Children’s Nursery in Wrexham. Speaking ahead of the launch he said:
“Free universal childcare is a vital part of our plan for an Opportunity Economy. We believe in encouraging aspiration and providing opportunity for everyone, regardless of their background.
“There is a black hole in government support for families from the end of parental leave to when their child gets a subsidised place. Our offer is unique: we are the only party offering free childcare to help parents as soon as paid parental leave ends.
"Current provision is inflexible, rarely suits the needs of working parents and opportunity through Flying Start is a postcode lottery. Our proposals will ensure that childcare is affordable and accessible for all, enabling parents to move into work or extend their hours, helping disadvantaged families to move out of poverty and securing the best outcomes for children and their families.
"A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research concluded that childcare policies that focus purely on the expansion of the offer for 3 and 4 year olds are not the best way to support families. That is why the Welsh Liberal Democrat plans offer a sustainable and affordable early education and childcare system for all right from the start.
“Going into this election, the Welsh Lib Dems will deliver a Wales that works for you. Our priorities are the priorities of the people of Wales: more nurses so they have the time to care for our loved ones, smaller class sizes so teachers have the time to properly teach our children, and an Opportunity Economy that helps businesses and supports people so they can own their get on in life.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrat policy paper 'Investing in the Early Years' (February 2016) proposes the following:
Working families 9 months – 2 years
The Welsh Liberal Democrats will offer 10 hours a week of free childcare to all working parents from the end of paid parental leave (nine months) until the age of two, 38 weeks a year. In the longer term we would look to extend this to 15 hours a week of funded provision, 48 weeks a year.
All 2-3 year olds
The Welsh Liberal Democrats will offer 10 hours of free childcare for all two year olds, 38 weeks a year. This will be for all children, rather than just those living in Flying Start areas. In the longer term we would look to extend this to 15 hours of funded provision, 48 weeks a year.
All 3-4 year olds
The Welsh Liberal Democrats will increase the statutory duty on local authorities to provide a funded early education place to 15 hours a week, 38 weeks a year, from the term following a child’s third birthday. In the longer term this would be extended to 48 weeks a year.
· A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research concluded that childcare policies that focus purely on the expansion of the offer for 3 and 4 year olds are not the best way to support families. It highlights that parents of children under the age of 3 are more likely to be locked out of work because of unaffordable childcare. It recommends that the government ‘prioritise universalising the offer to 2 year olds over extending the offer to 3 and 4 year olds.'
· Families in Wales pay more for childcare than in any other country in Europe except for Switzerland and many parents on low and middle incomes are forced to choose between paying high childcare costs, reducing their hours or giving up work completely.