Calls for Welsh Government to follow England and extend free childcare offer
The Welsh Government has been urged to “follow England” and extend is free childcare offer.
It comes after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled his spring budget for 2023, which focuses on employment, energy, and enterprise, among other areas.
The budget has been referred to as the “back to work budget” by some, while Hunt himself has dubbed it a “budget for growth.”
One of the headline announcements included a major expansion of free childcare in England.
It will see free childcare of 30 hours per week provided to parents with children aged from nine months to three years, though this will only apply to households where both parents are working.
This is aimed at providing greater support to parents who want to work but may struggle to afford childcare.
The Welsh Government currently provides 30 hours free childcare to eligible parents and guardians of three and four year olds.
Wales is also rolling out a phased expansion of its childcare offer to two-year-olds as part of a Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.
As part of the budget the Welsh Government will receive an additional £180m of funding over two years, through the Barnett consequential.
The Welsh Conservatives have now called on ministers to use some of the additional funding and adopt the childcare policy in Wales.
“I am calling on the Labour Government to allocate this new money to expand childcare in Wales, as opposed to letting these funds get sucked up into their ever-growing list of vanity projects.” Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Social Services, Gareth Davies MS said.
Plaid Cymru said the “belated funding for childcare in England, which must lead to full consequential funding to Wales.”
Plaid Cymru Treasury spokesperson Ben Lake MP said: “We are already on the front foot thanks to Plaid Cymru, with free childcare for two-year-olds extended through our Cooperation Agreement.
“The Welsh Labour government must now go faster and commit to using new funds to deliver Plaid Cymru’s policy of universal childcare in full.”
Childcare is a devolved issue, and it will be up to the Welsh government to decide where the additional funding will be spent.
Other key elements of the budget include a new employment initiative to create more job opportunities, particularly for young people.
This initiative will involve additional funding for training and apprenticeships, as well as incentives for businesses to hire and retain staff.
According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, while inflation is expected to fall back from record-high levels by the end of this year, living standards are expected to fall by 6% between 2021-22 and 2023-24, the largest decrease since records began in 1956-57.
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