Have you heard about the Childcare Offer for Wales? If you're a working parent of a 3 or 4 year old child you could be eligible for up to 30 hours a week of early education and childcare.
What difference could that kind of support make to your family?
Welsh Government's Childcare Offer for Wales campaign have put together a really cute video asking toddlers what they would do with a bit of extra money, resulting in answers ranging from buying 'a blue dolphin' to 'Portugal'! Marianna's not quite a toddler anymore but I put the question to her all the same.
Regardless of what your own answer would be, most working parents of 3 to 4 year olds can now claim funds towards the cost of childcare.
How does the Childcare Offer for Wales work?
It covers the cost of up to 30 hours of childcare and early education for children aged 3 to 4. This is split into two components: a minimum of 10 hours of Foundation Phase Nursery (FPN) provision, and a maximum of 20 hours of childcare from a provider registered with Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW).
The Childcare Offer for Wales funding is available for up to 48 weeks of the year, including up to 9 weeks of school holidays. The exact allocation is dependent on when the Offer is taken up, so it's advisable to double check with your childcare provider how many funded hours you can claim during school holidays.
Who is eligible?
How do I apply?
The Government funds the nursery or childcare provider directly so they can deduct the funded hours from your bill. You may still need to pay transport and lunch fees.
Who is eligible?
In short, the working parents or guardians of a 3 or 4 year old child and this applies to two parent and lone parent families.
The parent (or guardian) must be working the equivalent of 16 hours a week on average. They need to earn at least minimum wage, but less than £100,000 gross per annum. Parents will need to evidence to the local authority that they are eligible.
People who are self-employed or on zero hour contracts will need to be able to provide documentation to prove their status and that they normally meet the eligibility criteria. There are exemptions available for people on statutory sick or maternity/paternity pay, those affected by Covid-19 restrictions, and households where one parent/carer is not in work due to disability or significant caring responsibilities (as evidenced by the benefits they receive).
In other words, most working parents of a 3 or 4 year old child will be eligible for the Childcare Offer for Wales. If you fall into a grey area and aren't sure of your eligibility, get in touch with your local Family Information Service (FIS) which will have the latest information and advice.
How do I apply?
Applications for the Childcare Offer for Wales are open right now across Wales. In Torfaen you should apply via the Blaenau Gwent Childcare Team.
You will need to submit copies of:
- Child's birth certificate or passport.
- Proof of address. (e.g. utility or council tax bill)
- Last three months' wage slips. (If part of a couple you must each provide your last three months’ wage slips, or self-employed earnings evidence. However, if one of you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you will need to provide evidence of this).
You can typically expect acknowledgement of your application within 10 working days. Parents will be issued with a unique reference number and a childcare booking form that will need to be completed with your chosen childcare setting. Please note that funding for the Offer will not begin until a start date has been confirmed and the application process has been completed.
Funding will not be back dated, so make sure you apply in good time.
We looked at the initial Torfaen roll out of the Childcare Offer for Wales at Education Scrutiny Committee in 2019. Here's a video we were shown at the time of how the Offer had been benefitting local parents:
The whole idea of the Childcare Offer for Wales is to make life a little easier for working parents. Not only will it help with childcare costs, meaning you have a bit of extra money each month, it will also give you more flexibility in how and when you can work.
For more information, check out the Childcare Offer for Wales Facebook page.
Disclosure: This post has been commissioned by the Welsh Government and is a paid collaboration.