Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care
Our new 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 and are able to contribute to the future economic success of Wales.
In taking forward this vision, we recognise the vital contribution the early years workforce makes to supporting our children to reach their full potential. Our ambition is to develop a highly skilled childcare, play and early years’ workforce, which is engaged in a profession regarded as a career of choice, and valued by our society for the vital role it plays in supporting our children’s learning and development.
To take forward our ambition, we want to attract the right people into a career in childcare and early years with the skills to provide high-quality care, education and play opportunities for our children. We want the childcare and play sector to be able to grow sustainably and offer high-quality care and opportunities for career progression to its workforce.
Today I am pleased to publish our 10 year Childcare, Play and Early Years workforce plan.
The plan focuses our delivery on 3 key themes:
- Attracting high quality new entrants to the sector
- Raising standards and skills across the sector
- Investing in building capacity and capability across the sector to support economic growth and sustainability.
I have set out the actions we will take over the 10 year life of the plan, but initially focusing on the immediate actions for this Assembly term.
During this Assembly, we will provide 30 hours of government funded early education and childcare for 3 to 4 year olds to support working families across Wales and make it easier for people to take up and retain jobs.
Our evidence tells us the cost of childcare is a major concern for working parents, and impacts on families’ quality of life. The government funding will help to ease the financial burden of childcare for working families across Wales, while acting as a catalyst to support growth and sustainability for childcare providers.
We recognise there are many challenges facing the sector in the current economic climate and that there is a need to invest in building capacity and capability across the sector. To support providers to grow and operate sustainably we will therefore prioritise support for the sector as outlined in our Economic Action Plan launched earlier this week.
Work to identify business support and skills assistance which addresses the sector’s needs has already commenced with the following actions:
We have provided £100,000 covering the period 17/18; 18/19 and 19/20 to support those providers participating in the development of the childcare offer early implementer pilots across Wales and for those seeking to start or expand a business in order to take advantage of the new opportunities provided by the childcare offer.
I am also announcing the expansion of the childcare offer to further areas within authorities running early implementer pilots. Our initial feedback from the pilots has been positive and the launch of the workforce plan will play a vital role in supporting childcare providers to participate fully in delivering the offer
To help childcare providers to balance their operating costs, we announced earlier this week, our plans to increase the threshold for Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) from £12,000 to £20,500 from April 2018. We will also seek to continue to identify what additional support can be provided under the SBRR scheme, including consideration of Scotland’s Barclay Review on Business Rates published earlier this year.
A key action in the first year of implementation will be the completion of the development of a new suite of qualifications for the sector ready for teaching in September 2019. The new qualifications will cover levels 1 to 5 and will support new and existing practitioners to enhance their professional skills and offer enhanced career progression opportunities.
We recognise our plans are ambitious but they are essential if we want to improve the early education and care of our children. The actions set out above demonstrate our commitment to supporting the childcare, play and the early years sector. We will continue to drive forward the actions outlined in this plan and I will be make further announcements as matters progress in the new year.