We are pleased to announce we are today launching the Childcare Providers Grant.
Part of our comprehensive package of support for businesses across Wales affected by coronavirus, the Childcare Providers Grant will provide dedicated support for the childcare sector in Wales.
Since March many of our childcare providers have faced significant challenges as a consequence of the coronavirus. To control the spread of the virus it was necessary to keep the numbers of children in attendance low. We recognise that this came at a cost.
While the numbers of people using their services fell, providers still had bills to pay including staff salaries. While many providers stayed open to care for the children of our critical workers and our more vulnerable children, and we are very grateful to them for doing so, others had to close.
The Childcare Provider Grant will provide a much-needed financial lifeline to childcare providers who have not been able to access other government support packages, and help ensure that formal childcare places are available to parents as schools re-open in September. This is an important part of ensuring there is sufficient capacity in the sector which is key to supporting working families.
The scheme is available to those settings which have been unable to access the other business support schemes offered by the UK and Welsh Governments and most providers will be eligible for a grant of £2,500. Ensuring the availability of formal childcare places is instrumental to our recovery and we are pleased we are able to offer this vital lifeline to those in the sector who have fallen through the other support measures. More than 95% of the early years workforce are women and any closures, with resulting job losses, would disproportionately affect women who provide a vital service to parents across Wales. The loss of formal childcare places also disproportionately affected women, as mothers will be most likely to reduce their hours or leave employment.
We are acutely aware of the challenges the childcare sector has faced and want to thank all childcare providers for their perseverance and professionalism during these difficult times. Welsh Government recognises the important role childcare plays as part of the foundational economy and we are determined to support the sector as the economy reopens.
Since 22 June, childcare providers have been able to care for more children and increase their operations or re-open fully. This scheme will help ensure more providers re-open as the schools re-open in September.
The scheme will be a one-off grant to help providers meet the additional financial burdens they have faced since March, with many settings experiencing a reduction in income whilst continuing to meet costs such as rent, utilities and unmet wage costs. The scheme also aims to help make the childcare sector more resilient for the future by requiring unincorporated settings to register as a company limited by guarantee, a private limited company, a Community Interest Company or a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
Applications for the scheme will open on 24 August and the scheme will close on 31 October 2020. The first payments will be made to providers in September via their local authority.
We hope this announcement will help parents and providers to plan, with more certainty, for the future.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns she would be happy to do so.