Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Social Services
Through the Childcare Offer for Wales, the Welsh Government provides 30 hours a week of funded childcare and early education for three and four-year-olds, 48 weeks of the year. This enables parents to go to work or increase their working hours. We have extended the offer to parents studying on many higher and further education courses.
We are making a further significant investment in this policy area by developing an all-Wales digital service, to make accessing the Childcare Offer even easier and providing a more consistent experience across Wales. The new service will also simplify the processes childcare providers have had to follow to claim payments via the different local authority systems. It will streamline administration of the Childcare Offer for local authorities, bringing efficiencies of scale.
The application window for the January 2023 uptake of funded childcare will start on 7 November, and that is the point at which the new digital service will open to parents. Local authority legacy services for delivering the Offer will continue until August 2023 for parents already in receipt of the Offer.
While the Childcare Offer national digital service will only be available online, a range of offline support options will be available to people to enable them to interact with the online service, for example by phone or through face-to-face support.
As the service is available via devices connected to the internet, people will be able to access the service via free-to-access devices in public libraries.
In moving to the national digital service, we have worked closely with all 22 local authorities, and with parents and childcare providers across Wales, to develop the digital platform and support service. Over the summer a controlled test of the new service was undertaken in live conditions, producing positive results and feedback.
As a result, all childcare settings providing Childcare Offer hours have been invited to register onto the new platform by the end of October. Local authority staff have been supporting them to do this since early September.
This statement is being issued during recess to keep Members informed. Should Members wish us to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns we would be happy to do so.