Childcare Sufficiency Assessment
Premier Advisory Group (PAG) was commissioned to deliver a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA) for Pembrokeshire County Council (“the Council”) in the autumn of 2021. This CSA was commissioned to update the findings of the CSA of 2017, in line with the requirement of the Welsh Government for local authorities to update their CSA every five years. The assessment was underpinned by research conducted through multiple forms of consultation, including the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) Self-Assessment of Service Statement (SASS) data completed by childcare provides, a Smart Survey completed by parents, additional telephone interviews with providers, focus groups with parents and online surveys with stakeholders, employers and schools.
This CSA report reflects the specific context for childcare provision in Pembrokeshire from the autumn term 2021 and spring term 2022. Other local authorities and research institutes reported that providers across Wales were on the brink of closure the previous year. Considering this, this report specifically considers the local context in Pembrokeshire and seeks to understand the need of childcare settings, as well as parental demand for places at the local level.
The strategic context for childcare sufficiency
The Childcare Act 2006 (Local Authority Assessment) (Wales) Regulations 2016, made under section 26 of The Childcare Act 2006, require local authorities to prepare assessments of the sufficiency of childcare provision (Childcare Sufficiency Assessment) in their area every five years and to keep these under review. This Act expands and clarifies in legislation the vital role local authorities play as strategic leaders in the provision of childcare locally. The 2006 Act reinforces the framework within which local authorities already work – in partnership with the private, voluntary, independent, community and maintained sector – to shape and secure children’s services and focuses in particular on the provision of sufficient, sustainable and flexible childcare that is responsive to parents’ needs.
The Childcare Act, 2006, underpins the Welsh Government’s current Childcare Plan, Building a Brighter Future, and sets out the statutory basis for:
- Parents’ legitimate expectation of accessible high-quality childcare for children and their families; and
- Local Authorities’ responsibilities for providing information to parents and prospective parents to support them in their parenting role.
This is a necessary step to securing sufficient childcare provision, enabling local authorities to identify gaps and establish action plans to meet the childcare needs of parents needing to work or train.
With the easing of national restrictions from late 2021, many childcare providers have returned to their regular functions with caution according to the national guidance. Over the next 6 to 12 months, the key question for the childcare sector will be how much demand for childcare recovers, and how quickly it returns to complete normalcy, as the government support is phased out. It is important to acknowledge that many providers may raise fees and adjust their business model to reduce costs, or in some cases exit the market altogether to deal with these short- and medium-term risks.
There has been an increase in the demand for childcare, as parents and carers have found difficulties securing sufficient childcare places, specifically for out of school hour to complement their jobs.
There are signs that the sector in Wales is stabilising and recovering from the worst of the pandemic. This is reflected in the assessment where most providers reported that they don’t feel the impact will last more than 12 months and the expectation is that COVID-19 has resulted in new patterns of demand for childcare, driven by the wider changes which the pandemic has brought to all aspects of family life.
The assessment has informed the Council of the current position with regards to the supply and demand of the childcare sector and any highlighted areas of improvement have formed the basis of the action plan that the authority will assume to move the childcare sector forward.
Pembrokeshire’s previous sufficiency assessment
The last full Childcare Sufficiency Assessment was completed in 2017. In completing the CSA several sources of data were collected, namely data on population, economic activity, and social factors. This information was obtained from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and various of the Council’s departments. The research methodology and data collected was predominantly based upon parent and carer questionnaires, circulated electronically to all schools in the county and that the schools circulate to parents/carers. The questionnaire was available in both English and Welsh. In addition to this, an electronic survey was uploaded onto the Council’s website and social media sites for completion.
In addition to the above, hard copies of the questionnaire were circulated to all voluntary and private childcare settings, in order to obtain the views of parents/carers of pre-school aged children. To obtain a detailed consultation with parents/carers of children with additional needs the parent/carer questionnaire was sent out to Portfield School and SNAP Playgroup. Questionnaires were also disseminated via the Gypsy Traveller Network Facebook page for parents/carers to complete.
Childcare Provider detail was sourced from the SASS which was undertaken in July 2016. The Council did not receive a 100% return therefore this data does not provide the full picture of registered providers in the County. Overall, 75% of registered providers completed the SASS within the specified period. The data returned from each provider consisted of:
- 74.4% of Childminders
- 91.3% of Full Day Care settings
- 75% of Sessional Care
- 57.9% of Out of School provisions
In order to provide the ‘whole’ childcare picture in Pembrokeshire, data from the Family Information Service was also used. Questionnaires were sent out to all known unregistered settings in Pembrokeshire.
Consultation with employers was undertaken via a questionnaire survey undertaken in November 2016 and consultation with partner agencies was undertaken via a focus group held in January 2017. Further consultation was also undertaken with representatives from Umbrella Organisations, the Local Safeguarding Board, Job Centre Plus, Play Strategy Group, and the Welsh Medium Forum.
Various methods were used to gain the views of children and young people. For children aged 0-3 year’s consultation packs were distributed to settings in Pembrokeshire, including the following instructions:
- Choose a small group of 4-5 children from the setting to take part in the activity
- Each child’s key worker to spend 10 minutes or so going around the setting with them with a digital camera to take photos of the things they like to do in nursery
- Use the recording sheet to make notes of what each child said they like to do
Questionnaires were distributed to all school council link teachers, detailing the purpose of the survey, and asking the school council for completion. In order to gain the views of headteachers a questionnaire was distributed electronically to all primary and secondary headteachers. In addition to this, the survey was also disseminated to young people via the young person’s website for Pembrokeshire.
Key recommendations of the 2017 CSA were:
- The distribution of childminders is not consistent. The most rural area of the County only has two full day care providers in this area. The highest usage of childcare places is part time, and there are no vacancies within full day care during school holidays with only one childminder provides overnight care. Additionally, no childminders are registered to provide Early Years Education. There is a real lack of Welsh Language choice, as only 3 childminders provide childcare in the medium of Welsh.
- The limited number of Welsh providers is seen in Nurseries too, with only one Welsh medium day nursery in the County, providing 41 places. Most nursery provisions are available in town centres, with the rural areas facing a deficit of places. Furthermore, there is no flexibility for working parents if you work outside the core hours 08:00am - 18:00pm. Nurseries are only accessible during this time.
- Out of school care is diminishing and the number of holiday clubs has reduced since the previous CSA. There is no Welsh medium provision accessible in this sector.
- There is one approved Nanny in Pembrokeshire providing care in the home. Currently one child is receiving care full-time and 2 after school. Care is provided in English and the provider does not have any vacancies. They only operate during core hours and does not provide weekend or overnight care.
- Parents noted that childcare is “expensive”. The highest response for improvements was more affordable childcare for both term time and school holidays. Parents and Carers also stated that they would like more provision before 8am and after school, to allow them to work. There is a lack of wrap around care in the County. Although Parents did affirm that they are satisfied with the quality of childcare received.
- Access to childcare in rural areas needs to be improved, as does access to holiday provision in the County.
- Welsh language skills within the childcare workforce needs to be promoted, to increase the confidence of Welsh speaking staff.
- There is currently no open play access provision in Pembrokeshire, the Council are to work with Play Sufficiency Group to address this.
- Staff within the Family Information Service need to be briefed on the benefits and entitlements are available to eligible parents and carers to help towards the cost of childcare
Childcare market compared to last sufficiency assessment
Since the last sufficiency assessment, the Council has reported having the following providers actively delivering services in the sector:
- Full day care: 31
- Childminders: 56
- Sessional day care: 25
- Out of school providers: 11
These figures are from the SASS data 2021, however this data doesn’t include any providers that did not complete the SASS.
Since 2017 the number of registered full day nurseries has seen a slight increase from 21 to 31, however, the number of active childminders has drastically decreased from 96 to 56.