Working parents of young children are being reminded that they may be eligible to access free childcare.
Thanks to the Welsh Government’s childcare offer scheme, eligible working parents across Bridgend County Borough are able to access up to 30 hours of free childcare and early years education for children aged three and four for up to 48 weeks of the year during both term-time and school holidays.
Since the childcare offer was introduced locally in May this year, nearly 450 applications have already been made, and Bridgend County Borough Council is keen to make even more families aware of the scheme.
As soon as a child turns three, their parent or guardian can apply to receive the childcare offer until the September that follows their fourth birthday. Applications are currently open for children born between 1 September 2015 and 31 August 2016.
To qualify for the offer, parents must also earn on average a weekly minimum equivalent to, or more than, 16 hours at national minimum wage or national living wage. If you are in a single-parent family you need to be working and if you are in a two-parent family you both need to be working. The combined household wage must also be less than £100,000 a year.
The aim of the scheme is to provide help with childcare costs for working parents and to eliminate barriers for those wanting to return to work. The scheme is also intended to help the childcare sector to grow in response to increased demand and take-up of formal childcare, and a positive impact has already been felt by local childcare providers.
So far, 71 per cent of registered childcare settings in the county borough, and 52 per cent of registered childminders, have signed up to provide the offer, with five providers even extending their hours.
Amanda Standing, owner of the Standing to Grow Playgroup in Maesteg, said:
“We have extended our hours to support the childcare offer and are now open 48 weeks of the year. The offer is definitely supporting both working parents and also encouraging parents back into work. It has also extended our provision and provided two extra jobs for local practitioners.”
Cllr Dhanisha Patel, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Future Generations, said:
“Parents are now able to take on more hours at work, have increased disposable income, and are also able to make an informed choice about using formal childcare.
“As a council, we are keen to support all parents within the county borough so are proud to offer good quality childcare at an affordable price. It’s also absolutely fantastic to see the childcare sector growing as a result of this offer.”
For further information please visit the childcare pages on the council’s website (www.bridgend.gov.uk/talkchildcare) or call Graham Davies, the council’s Childcare Offer Co-ordinator, on 01656 642649.