Voice Cymru is campaigning to overturn a decision by the Welsh Government to suspend new applications for the Childcare Offer for Wales for a further two months, until at least the end of August. During this period local authorities will not accept or process new applications, and no children will start their entitlement under the Offer. Also, where a setting is closed, or a child is no longer in regular attendance, the Welsh Government will not continue to fund these places.
Senior Professional Officer Elizabeth Williams said:
“This is an ill-thought-out, short-term Welsh Government decision that has serious consequences for both our members and for working families.”
“We have serious concerns that many settings that have been struggling to keep afloat financially since lockdown will not be able to open again because of this announcement. As a consequence, many parents will struggle to find childcare – making it difficult for them to return to work – and many staff, including our members, will lose their jobs.”
Voice believes that:
- the immediate effects of this decision are that parents who were expecting to place their 3 and 4 year olds in a nursery from 1 July for 30 free hours a week will have childcare difficulties, which may prevent them returning to work, in particular affecting those on low incomes and women;
- the closure of nurseries in Wales would lead to redundancies amongst nursery staff, affecting a predominantly low-paid and female workforce; and
- in the longer term, the closure of nurseries will lead to a shortage of childcare places that will then cause further childcare difficulties for working families, particularly if grandparents continue to be advised not to care regularly for their grandchildren due to COVID-19 transmission rates.
Update, 25 June 2002:
After some delay, the Welsh Government responded to Voice’s enquiries on this policy.
The Welsh Government has admitted that:
- there is currently no reliable data on how many settings have accessed the available benefits that they might be eligible for:
- smaller settings are struggling to access benefits; and
- possible redundancies in the sector were not taken into account before announcing the policy.
It is Voice’s view that additional funding should have been found for this vital support to fund both key worker children and those children eligible to start at nursery, given that parents may now be much more willing to send their children to nursery than they would have been during the stricter lockdown weeks.
Welsh Government: Written Statement: The Childcare Offer and Coronavirus Childcare Assistance Scheme 9 June 2020