Written Statement: Expanding Flying Start childcare to more children in Wales

We are committed to delivering childcare to more families who need it.

Our Programme for Government commits us to continue our support for our flagship Flying Start programme. And, in line with the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, we have extended this to deliver a phased expansion of early years provision to include all two-year-olds, with a particular emphasis on strengthening Welsh-medium provision.

The first phase began in September 2022 and we have already passed our target. All four elements of the Flying Start programme ­– enhanced health visiting, support for speech, language and communication, parenting support and childcare – are available to more than 2,600 additional children.

We are now focusing on the next phase of expansion – delivering the childcare element of Flying Start to even more two-year-olds across Wales.

Over the next two years we will invest £46m in expanding Flying Start childcare and we expect to be able to support more than 9,500 more two-year-olds to access high-quality childcare through this programme. This is in addition to our existing Childcare Offer, which provides 30 hours of funded childcare for 48 weeks a year for working parents and those in education and training with children aged three and four.

This investment will allow Flying Start childcare to expand significantly, supporting long-term, positive impacts on the lives of those children and families across Wales facing the greatest challenges.

It will mean more families in Wales will have access to Flying Start childcare for their two-year-old children in Wales.

This expansion comes a year earlier than the childcare plans outlined by the UK Government and takes us another step closer to delivering our vision for Early Childhood Education and Care, with a focus on supporting the development of all children in their early years.

We will build on the same approach we took in phase one as we expand Flying Start provision – we will work with our local authority partners and the childcare sector to provide high-quality provision. We will continue to focus on supporting some of our most disadvantaged communities, and delivery will begin this month.

The Co-operation Agreement commitment also emphasises the importance of supporting Welsh-medium early years provision. We will significantly increase the availability of Welsh medium childcare over this two-year period. The phased expansion of Flying Start will take place alongside a package of measures, which I originally announced in September, to support existing Welsh-medium settings and childcare workers and those wanting to enter the children’s workforce.

This work would not be possible without our delivery partners. I, along with the Plaid Cymru Designated Member, Sian Gwenllian, want to thank our local authorities, health boards and early years partners for their hard work and dedication to expanding the reach of Flying Start services to those who will benefit from it the most.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.