Following previous updates by PACEY Cymru on the 30 hour Childcare Offer in Wales the Welsh Government has published responses to many of the Frequently Asked Questions that are being asked by childcare providers. This provides clarity and consistency on many of the key points and is extremely useful for members as the childcare offer develops further and pilots in selected areas start in September.
For ease of reading we have grouped the questions into sections related to the associated points:
- Local Authority Areas Involved
- Flexibility and Accessibility
- Funding, Sustainability and Sufficiency
Local Authority Areas involved
Which areas will the offer be available in?
Following the initial pilot the Childcare Offer for Wales is now available to eligible families in all local authorities in Wales.
Flexibility and accessibility
Which childcare providers will be able to deliver the offer? Will the non-maintained sector and childminders be able to deliver the offer?
Welsh Government’s plan is to work with the sector to ensure that the offer provides as much flexibility as possible.
Welsh Government realise that they will need to work closely with private providers when delivering the offer to ensure that there is sufficient capacity. Currently local authorities are able to decide who within their authority can deliver Foundation Phase early education. However, Welsh Government want parents to be able to access the childcare element of the offer with the provider of their choice.
Is the Early Years Foundation Phase part of the Childcare Offer?
Yes, the new Childcare Offer will combine the early education provision provided through the Foundation Phase during term times, with additional childcare. The current early education entitlement provided through the Foundation Phase is available during term-time, for 39 weeks per year. During the weeks of the year when the Foundation Phase is not provided, qualifying children will receive 30 hours of childcare, supporting working families with the costs of holiday care.
Will parents have to use schools to access Foundation Phase provision or will children be allowed to stay in childcare all day?
The 30 hours will include at least ten hours Foundation Phase early education and the remainder will be made up of childcare. Currently Foundation Phase is delivered in both maintained settings (i.e. school nursery classes) and non-maintained settings (i.e. private providers such as playgroups, day nurseries and cylchoedd meithrin), with variations between local authorities. Welsh Government will work with the sector to ensure that the offer provides as much flexibility as possible, for the childcare element of the offer.
Will Foundation Phase provision continue to be down to local authorities to decide?
This is currently a local authority decision but it is something we are considering as we continue to develop the Childcare Offer. Welsh Government know parents are not keen to have children moved from one setting to another. They are keen to meet parents’ needs and make the offer as flexible as possible.
We have parents who forfeit their funding for the Foundation Phase in order to leave their child/ren with us full-time. Will parents be able to choose to access the full hours in the private sector?
This depends on how early education through Foundation Phase is delivered within your local authority area. The 30 hours will consist of at least ten hours Foundation Phase education and the remainder will be made up of childcare. Where the private sector delivers early education, a parent could take up all 30 hours at that setting. Welsh Government will work with the sector to ensure that the offer provides as much flexibility as possible. The offer will provide 30 hours of childcare outside of term-time, when the early education provided through Foundation Phase is not available. For these 10 weeks parents will be able to access their full 30 hours through the private sector.
Can parents accrue their hours?
No, an accruals/banking system will not be put in place from September 2017 for pilot areas. Parents will be provided with a total of 30 hours a week of combined Foundation Phase provision and childcare with parents choosing how much of the 30 hours to take up. Any hours not used in a week will be lost.
Are there limits to the days, the times of day and the amount of hours the offer can be accessed?
For this year of the pilots, parents can access the childcare element of the offer on at any day and time they wish. However it is be the responsibility of the parent to find childcare providers who can accommodate their requirements.
Is there a limit to the number of settings the offer can be accessed in, in any given day?
The offer will allow children to access a maximum of two registered childcare settings in addition to their Foundation Phase education setting in any given day.
During the holiday period a child may therefore access a maximum of two registered settings under the offer.
If I am a registered childminder can I access the funding for my own child?
Childminders are not allowed to draw down the funding for providing childcare to their own children in their own home setting. The Welsh Government has confirmed that the following forms of care will not be funded through the offer:
by their parent, step-parent or parent’s partner;
by a person with parental responsibility for the child; or
by a person who is a foster parent of the child.
Registered childminders are able to send their own child to another registered childcare provider delivering the offer if they wish their child to access this if all other eligibility is met.
If I am a registered childminder can I access the funding for related children?
Yes, providing the child is not resident with you and you are a registered childminder. Following lobbying work by PACEY Cymru Welsh Government announced a change in position for In terms of grandparents or other relatives being able to provide the childcare offer for children they are related to, who are not resident with them, PACEY Cymru have published a news story on this change of position. The revised guidance enables childminders caring for related children, outside of the child's home, to access childcare offer funding.
Funding, sustainability and sufficiency
Is there enough childcare to meet the demand in these areas?
It will vary from place to place and this is one of the things that will be tested during the pilots. Welsh Government are confident, however, that the offer will stimulate the market locally and provision will increase where it needs to. Local authorities have a good track-record of engagement with childcare providers. They will be able to direct parents, through the local Family Information Service, to providers with surplus places. The Welsh Government also provides local authorities with an Out of School Childcare Grant which they can use to build capacity in areas where it is needed.
What funding rate will be offered to providers? I am concerned that the funding will be less than our actual costs and will make my business unsustainable.
Welsh Government are aware that many providers have concerns about the level of funding that will be available.
They have now confirmed for the purpose of the pilot that all providers in these areas will receive a rate of £4.50 per hour for children receiving the childcare element of the offer. Welsh Government have confirmed that providers will not be able to charge hourly top-up rates if they'd normally charge more than £4.50 per hour however can charge parents for additional elements such as food, transport and off-site activities which incur a cost.
Welsh Government have confirmed They know that they have to get the funding right and that is why they have commissioned ALMA economics to undertake research for them. They’re keen to learn lessons from the experiences in England and that is why they are piloting the offer prior to full roll-out. By testing the offer they will be able to learn from experience and evidence to deliver for all working parents in Wales.
30 hours of childcare will be funded over the holidays; can parents pay for additional hours?
The full details of the offer are still being developed and will be tested through the pilots. However, Welsh Government would like parents to be able to access the offer as flexibly as possible so additional hours should be offered, as long as the settings have capacity. Parents will need to pay for any additional hours they access outside of the offer.
We have heard that providers in England are getting a ‘top-up’ by charging for meals etc. So the offer in England is not really ‘free’.
Welsh Government have confirmed that providers will not be able to charge hourly top-up rates if they'd normally charge more than £4.50 per hour however can charge parents for additional elements such as food, transport and off-site activities which incur a cost. The Welsh Government guidelines in respect of setting additional fees under the offer for a full day care session (approximately 10 hours) are that parents should not be charged more than £7.50 per day (this would include three meals at £2 per meal and 2 snacks at a charge of 75p per snack). For a half day session (approximately 5.5 hours) parents should not be charged more than £4.75 (two meals at £2 per meal plus a snack at a charge of 75p per snack). For sessional care where a meal is not provided but children receive a snack, guidelines are that parents should not be charged more than 75p per day for snack provision.
Welsh Government know that we have to get the funding right and that is why they have commissioned ALMA economics to undertake research for them. They’re keen to learn lessons from the experiences in England and that is why they are not rushing to roll-out our offer.
Would funding/payment be given to parents or providers?
Welsh Government are still working on the exact details of funding and payment mechanisms. This is something that will be tested through the pilots. By testing the offer they will be able to learn from experience and evidence to deliver for all working parents in Wales.
Is this free childcare going to only be for parents who are employees or for self-employed as well?
Self-employed parents will also be eligible for new offer providing they also meet the eligibility criteria.
How will parents claim it, is it through their tax or employer?
This is another area that is still in development. Work is ongoing on the exact details of funding and payment mechanisms. This is something that will be tested through the pilots. By testing the offer Welsh Government will be able to learn from experience and evidence to deliver for all working parents in Wales.
In terms of eligibility, you must have a minimum working hours threshold in mind?
For those living in a pilot area, to be eligible, parents will need to prove through their earnings that they work a minimum of 16 hours per week. Both parents will need to meet this threshold, or a single parent in a lone-parent household. Welsh Government are still considering the eligibility criteria for the full roll-out of the offer. Should a parent fall out of eligibility, a temporary exemption period of 8 weeks will be granted during which they will be able to continue to access the offer.
Where parents have separated but do not share equal custody of the child, the parent with primary custody will be eligible to take up the offer (if they meet the eligibility criteria). Where parents share equal custody one parent will need to be nominated as the lead parent for the offer.
Parents, guardians, step-parents and live-in partners will all need to meet the eligibility criteria in order for a child living within that household to be able to take up the Offer.
Are there exemptions to eligibility for families?
There are some circumstances in which parents will be able to access the offer when they don’t meet the eligibility criteria, these are:
- where one or both parents are temporarily away from the workplace on statutory sick pay or are in receipt of statutory maternity/paternity pay;
- where one parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits or has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring;
- newly self-employed parents;
- Kinship carers, family and friends carers who have taken responsibility for a child or step child who is not their own because either the child has no parents or has parents who are unable to care for the child or it is likely that the child would otherwise be looked after by a local authority because of concerns in relation to the child’s welfare.
Will parents who work 16 hours be eligible for 30 hours of free childcare and still be able to claim tax credits?
The exact details of the offer are still being developed and this is something Welsh Government are considering. Parents will not be able to claim tax free-childcare on provision received through the new offer. However, parents will still be eligible to claim tax free-childcare for additional hours they fund themselves or for childcare costs for another child.
How do you prove parents are working for them to claim the hours available through the childcare offer?
The eligibility system for the Childcare Offer is currently being developed and will be tested through the pilots. By testing the offer we will be able to learn from experience and evidence to deliver for all working parents in Wales.
Are there are any plans to change the childcare ratios?
Currently, qualified teachers are used in maintained settings to deliver the Foundation Phase and the ratios set in respect of education are therefore different to those that apply in childcare settings. Welsh Government are not intending to make any changes to ratios in non-maintained settings as a result of the development of the Childcare Offer.
What about Welsh language childcare provision?
Welsh Government want to make sure Welsh medium childcare is available and accessible for all parents who wish for their child to access it.
My setting currently delivers the Foundation Phase in Welsh; will we be permitted to deliver the Foundation Phase in English as part of the offer?
Welsh Government are still developing the Childcare Offer and are working with colleagues in the Foundation Phase to explore these issues.
Will we be required to undertake some form of accreditation? Increasing demands from the likes of CIW are putting enormous pressure on our business already.
The full details of the Childcare Offer are still being developed. However, providers will be required to be registered with CIW to deliver the offer.
For further enquiries on the Childcare Offer please contact the Wales office by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone 0845 8801299