Plaid Cymru launches universal free childcare plan
Plaid Cymru has launched a plan to provide universal free childcare for all children from the age of 12 months.
The plan, described as one of the most generous in the UK, would provide high quality provision for all children over 12 months old until they are eligible for full time education.
The plan would be implemented before the end of the sixth Senedd term and would be paid for by increasing income tax for the top 5% of earners.
Free childcare for all two-year-olds is a commitment in the Co-operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government.
The plans outline immediate action to help children and families in Wales’s poorest communities by introducing places for children from 12 months of age during the first phase of the policy.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for children and young people Heledd Fychan said: “Giving the best start in life for our children is part of Plaid Cymru’s vision for a better Wales. This means free, high quality, bilingual and educational childcare for all, helping families with childcare costs and removing barriers for parents who wish to return to work.
“Our plan would put children’s rights first – we believe that children should be able to access the benefits of early education and care regardless of where they live and their families’ work status. Our offer would also be more reflective of families’ needs, available for 48 weeks of the year not just 39 weeks.
“The proven longer-term benefits of free childcare in tackling poverty means we’re not only giving our children the best start in life, but also making a difference to their futures.”
The plan has been welcomed by childcare providers, who say it would be a major boost for the sector.
A spokesperson for the National Day Nurseries Association said: “This is a very welcome announcement from Plaid Cymru.
“Free childcare would be a major boost for the childcare sector, and would make a real difference to the lives of families across Wales.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are already rolling out high-quality childcare to two-year-olds across Wales through our Flying Start programme as part of the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru. We are also investing £70m in capital investment in this sector so it can continue to grow.
“Our Childcare Offer provides 30 hours of funded childcare a week for up to 48 weeks a year for three and four-year-olds of working parents, compared to 38 weeks of the year in England. Parents in training and education are also able to access funded childcare in Wales.
“We will consider how best to use the small consequential from the UK Spring Budget to best meet the needs of people in Wales. The Spring Budget did nothing to support the NHS and education.”
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