An Assembly committee says the Welsh Government's flagship Flying Start programme needs to reach more children in need.
The programme provides services to children under the age of four in some of Wales' most deprived postcode areas. It is cited as one of the Welsh Government's top priorities in tackling child poverty.
The committee says that a significant change is needed if the flagship Flying Start early years programme is to succeed in reaching out to those in most need of support.
The Children, Young People and Education Committee found that more flexibility is needed so that funding can be used to help children who live outside existing Flying Start areas.
The programme has four key elements.
- free part-time childcare for two to three-year-olds
- an enhanced health visiting service
- access to parenting support
- access to early language development support
With nearly two thirds of people who are income deprived living outside geographical areas that are defined as deprived, the Committee heard that a significant number of children living in poverty were likely to be excluded from Flying Start support.
The Welsh Government has provided funding of more than £600 million to Flying Start since its creation in 2007. The committee says it is concerned that there is limited hard evidence at this stage to show that children and parents supported by the programme have experienced improved outcomes.
The Welsh Government says it welcomes the committee's report.