There are no plans to extend free childcare to all children below the age of two in Wales

The First Minister responds to questions from the Welsh Conservative Party leader on the matter of childcare in Wales.

The First Minister has not committed to announcing free childcare for nine-month-olds up to two-year-olds.

Mark Drakeford MS said: "We have a far more generous childcare offer and a plan to be even more generous, which we will deliver, because we have already found the money. We are already making the investment."

He was responding to Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservatives leader, in First Minister's Questions.

Mr Davies asked: "Are you going to bring a provision forward for one and two-year-olds here in Wales? You're getting the consequentials for the money that is being spent in England. It is a realistic proposition that people want to see delivered here in Wales?

"So, a simple answer could come from you, 'Yes, we will deliver it, because we're having the money, and we will deliver it by this date.' So, can we have clarity around this question? Will you deliver childcare for one and two-year-olds?"

The questions follow the UK Government's announcement about further childcare provision in the recent budget.

Jeremy Hunt announced he would introduce 30 free hours of childcare a week in England for parents with children over nine months.

The Chancellor announced the news in his budget last week. Credit: PA

In response at Plenary on Tuesday, the First Minister said: "What we see is an attempt in England to catch up with services that are already available here in Wales.

"It's quite certainly not the other way around. The promises—the aspirations, we might say—that the Chancellor set out, all of them carefully calibrated to make sure they land the other side of a general election, are simply attempting to catch up with the services that are already available here in Wales.

"For three and four-year-olds, here in Wales, families get 30 hours of childcare for 48 weeks of the year.

"In England, that's 38 weeks of the year...Here in Wales, just last year, in our co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, we have extended the reach of the childcare offer for three and four-year-olds to people who are on the cusp of employment, and 3,000 more parents are able to take advantage of that childcare offer here in Wales just on that one aspect."

Parents in Wales can currently claim up to 30 hours of early education and childcare a week. The scheme covers up to 48 weeks of the year. 

The First Minister says the UK Government is trying to play catchup with services already in Wales. Credit: PA

Those eligible for this offer must live in Wales and have a three or four-year-old child and be either employed or self-employed - earning at least the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage, up to £100,000 gross per year.

The Welsh Government said it is providing £10m of additional funding to expand Flying Start in 2023-24. This means over 4,500 more two-year olds across Wales will benefit from high quality free childcare.

"Under the cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru we are delivering a phased expansion of early years provision to all two-year olds via our Flying Start programme. In time this will give all two-year olds access to part time funded childcare."

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