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More Labour election inducements but not until September 2017

Council Pushes Forward With Free Childcare Pilot Scheme

With council Leaders constituency at the top of RCTC list well there’s a surprise

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has pushed forward with plans to offer one of the most generous child care provisions in the whole of the UK through Welsh Government support. 

Cabinet Members have agreed to pilot a Welsh Government initiative to offer 30 hours’ free childcare a week, 48 weeks of the year, in four school cluster areas. 

The proposed pilot areas set to benefit from this radical child care proposal could include the school cluster areas of Bryn Celynnog, Mountain Ash and Ferndale. A Welsh medium pilot could also be undertaken around the Rhydywaun catchment area. 

Now Cabinet has approved the planned pilot areas, a detailed proposal will be resubmitted to Welsh Government for endorsement by the Cabinet Secretary. 

It is anticipated that the pilot communities will begin offering such a provision from September 2017 with full roll out across the County expected by Welsh Government in 2020/21. 

County Borough Councillor Joy Rosser, Cabinet Member for Prosperity, Wellbeing & Communities said: "We have been proactive in seeking to pilot this ambitious and radical childcare proposal here in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

"We welcome the funding being made available by the Welsh Government to allow local authorities to support the delivery of what would become the most generous free childcare provision in the whole of the United Kingdom.

“Welsh Government recognises that childcare is one of the biggest challenges facing working families in Wales and developing an enhanced childcare offer is a top priority for them, which we have sought to secure for Rhondda Cynon Taf at the earliest opportunity. 

“Welsh Government has committed to provide 30 hours a week of free early education and childcare for working parents of three and four year olds, for 48 weeks of the year.  

“It is anticipated that the pilots will commence in September 2017, with full roll out across all Welsh Local Authorities expected by 2020/21.

“This is a complex offer and, as such, Welsh Government requires several pilot areas in order to test different aspects of the offer.  They took a number of factors into consideration when assessing our expression of interest to deliver this offer.  

“These included testing how the offer fits with the Foundation Phase.  They also looked for a range of different geographical and social areas within our local authority to deliver the offer. The secondary school cluster areas we have chosen seek to meet this criteria. 

“We currently fund 15 hours of Foundation Phase nursery education for children from the term following their third birthday, and full time nursery education for children from the term following their fourth birthday.  

“This is above the Welsh Government recommended offer of ten hours per week and will be instrumental in the delivery of this pilot offer. We therefore believe, from a capacity perspective, we are well placed to take forward this pilot, which is subject to final ministerial approval before we can begin detailed discussions with schools and providers at a local level. 

“As a result of the Welsh Government funding the delivery of this provision, I am confident, with their approval, we can develop the model for other areas of Wales to follow.” 

To be eligible for this offer, Welsh Government have determined that both parents (or parent if lone parent family) must work for 16 hours or more per week at national minimum wage.  An upper annual income threshold is yet to be decided.  It is likely that children will be eligible to receive the offer from the term following their third birthday to the September following their fourth birthday, although this is yet to be formally confirmed by Welsh Government officials. 

Council Officers consider that RCT is well placed to be an early implementer of this offer, highlighting the good range of regulated childcare already available in RCT, including some childcare settings who are also registered with Estyn to deliver nursery education.