Wales politics

Free childcare pilots to be run in six council areas

Child with woman

Six councils will take part in a free childcare pilot scheme, Welsh ministers have announced.

The plans will be tested in parts of Gwynedd, Anglesey, Flintshire, Swansea, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Working parents of three to four-year-olds will be offered 30 hours of free childcare for 48 weeks of the year.

The scheme will be tested from September 2017 before a wider roll-out at a later date, Communities and Children Secretary Carl Sargeant said.

Parents welcome free childcare pilot

Mr Sargeant told AMs on Tuesday the £10m pilot would not cover the whole of the counties, and the tests would be in "very specific areas".

They would "allow us to make sure we learn what works and what doesn't, building on experience and evidence to deliver for all working parents in Wales", he said.

"Delivering this commitment will be challenging and I don't underestimate what needs to be done.

"The barriers childcare can present to parents supporting their families as they wish, must be addressed head-on."

'Serious questions'

There have been claims the costs of the policy could increase from £84m a year as was suggested by Labour at the assembly election.

Economist Gillian Paull said the "upper limit" could reach £200m if most parents took up the offer.

More than three-quarters of parents in Wales use unpaid family or friends to care for their children, according to figures published this summer.

On Tuesday, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies urged Mr Sargeant to "provide clarity sooner rather than later if this commitment is to be delivered in a meaningful way by the end of this assembly term".

"Welsh Conservatives support increasing the amount of child care available to hardworking parents across Wales, but the Welsh Government has today failed to satisfy very serious questions posed over the affordability and capacity requirements of their proposals," Mr Davies said.

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