Huw Irranca-Davies AM - Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care
Our national strategy, Prosperity for All, sets out our vision for children from all backgrounds to have the best start in life. We want to ensure all our children have the opportunity to reach their full potential and lead a healthy, prosperous and fulfilling life.
To help take forward this vision I published a 10 year Childcare, Play and Early Years workforce plan last December. The plan recognises the vital contribution the early years’ workforce makes to supporting our children to reach their full potential and the vital role the sector plays as an economic enabler supporting parents and carers to access and remain in employment.
During this Assembly term, we will provide 30 hours of government funded early education and childcare for three to four year olds to support working families across Wales and make it easier for people to take up and retain jobs. The childcare sector plays a vital role in supporting us to deliver on this commitment.
However, the sector faces many challenges in the current economic climate and in recognition of these challenges we gave a commitment to prioritise investment support for the sector in this Assembly term. We have made good progress so far in the following areas:
We promised to review what additional support could be provided under the Small Business Rates Relief scheme. From 1 April 2019, we will provide all registered childcare providers in Wales with 100% business rates exemption for a period of 3 years. This relief will help childcare providers become more established, supporting the sector to operate and grow in line with our Economic Action Plan.
The 10 year workforce plan committed to developing our priority investment approach targeted at business support and skills assistance. During 2018, we launched our first step by developing a bespoke business support grant scheme aimed at helping providers and child minders to consider creating additional childcare spaces or become a new start up. In the New Year, we will continue to develop and improve our approach to business support.
Introduction of the new Childcare Qualifications and Apprenticeships
Next year will see the introduction of the new childcare qualifications. These will be available in English and Welsh and will support childcare practitioners to train and access higher level skills. Development of the new qualifications has continued to progress during 2018 and we continue to work closely with our partners. To support introduction of the new qualifications we will continue to offer entry level 2 Apprenticeships whilst encouraging employers to support their employees to progress to level 3 and beyond. This commitment will build on our approach to support the 10 year workforce plan’s ambition to professionalise the sector.
Recruitment and Retention Campaign
A key aspiration of the workforce plan is our ambition to build capacity and capability across sector. To deliver this ambition we have been working closely with Social Care Wales on a new national recruitment and retention campaign. This campaign will launch next year.
Childcare Works Project
The workforce plan seeks to support innovative ways of capacity building across the sector. During 2018, in partnership with the National Day Nurseries Association Cymru, we piloted a supported employment approach aimed at individuals with the right skills and attributes for working in the childcare sector. The pilot produced a number of successful outcomes, including job creation opportunities for the participants. In 2019, we will build on the success on the initial Childcare Works project with a second phase of the project in ten local authorities across Wales.
I remain fully committed to supporting the development of the childcare sector under the implementation of the 10 year workforce plan. We will continue to develop our bespoke investment approach to the sector as we move into 2019, building on this year’s successes whilst ensuring the aspirations and ambition of the 10 year plan are driven forward.