The Welsh Liberal Democrats have announced today that they would reform the Flying Start programme, which provides support to poorer families in Wales, by ensuring provision was based on need rather than where a family lives.
The Welsh Government’s ‘Flying Start’ programme is aimed to support families with children below the age of four. To qualify for support from the scheme, a family must live in a ‘targeted area’. The Welsh Liberal Democrats would reform the system so that it is available to all families who are in need of support, rather than simply those who live within closely defined postcode areas.
The core elements of the programme are drawn from a range of options that have been shown to influence positive outcomes for children and their families. These include: part-time childcare for 2-3 year olds, an enhanced health visiting service, access to parenting programmes and early language development.
The programme has targeted areas according to measures of relative disadvantage including the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD), free school meals and the proportion of children under four in households receiving income related benefits.
Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:
“Opportunity shouldn’t be a postcode lottery. The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe there needs to be a consistent approach and common criteria across Wales to access the Flying Start scheme. Access to support from the scheme should be based on need rather than geographical entitlement.
“It is simply wrong that a family in great need living just yards outside a Flying Start area or in rural isolation can’t access the same enhanced health visiting scheme or parenting support programmes.
“The objective of Flying Start is something we can all agree on, but it hasn’t provided the desired results. Reports consistently show that Wales’ poorest children are being left behind their peers even at a young age with nearly half of three-year-olds in Wales failing to achieve the expected level of development for their age.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently shown we are the party that will always fight for increased support for the poorest in our society. Our flagship policy, the Welsh Pupil Premium, ensures all children on free school meals across Wales get the extra support they need no matter where they live. That is the kind of ambition we want to see for Flying Start, creating opportunity for everyone in a fairer society.”