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Education Rhondda Cynon Taf South Wales

Childcare before school breakfast clubs will remain free for now

A CHARGE for childcare provided before school breakfast clubs in Rhondda Cynon Taf won’t come in yet.

In January, the decision making cabinet approved plans to charge parents £1 a day for the childcare that is available before free school breakfast clubs begin in RCT schools.

They approved a two tier system which will see a £40 a term charge for those who use it three days a week and £60 a term for those who use the childcare five days a week following feedback from the consultation and the council confirmed that the breakfast clubs themselves will continue to be free.

But following further feedback and to allow continued discussions with schools and trade unions, the council said it is not ready to introduce the charge so the childcare will remained unchanged for now and will continue to be delivered as normal following the Easter break.

A Rhondda Cynon Taf spokesman said: “In January, cabinet agreed to introduce a charge for childcare provided before the start of free breakfast clubs.

“It was agreed that the charge was to be implemented from the start of spring 2024, or as soon as practicable after this time.

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“In response to stakeholder feedback and to enable continued dialogue with schools and trade unions, we are not yet ready to introduce the charge.

“Schools and parents have been advised that childcare and breakfast club provision will remained unchanged for now and will continue to be delivered as normal following the Easter break.”

The original plan was that it would come in at the start of the spring term 2024 or as soon as possible after.

Children eligible for free school meals would be exempt from any charge and parents and carers would only pay for the first two children of primary age, living in the same household and using the service.

The report to cabinet in January said there was a general disagreement with the proposal due to reasons such as financial strain, impact on working parents, concerns about implementation and mixed opinions on service use. Some emphasised the importance of free meals for children, expressing worries that introducing charges may hinder access to nutritious breakfasts.

For those who agreed with the proposal, there was a willingness to pay for the childcare element, understanding the need for financial contributions, especially if it would help maintain the service. Some had concerns over the misuse of the provision and the need for a small charge to deter those using it solely as free childcare and earlier start times for breakfast clubs was requested to accommodate working parents.

They also mentioned means testing as an alternative to a universal charge, ensuring those who can afford it contribute while those in need received support and the ability to pay for the provision on an ad-hoc basis or if the charge is reasonable.

The cabinet report at the time said the council is facing significant financial challenges into the medium term and is considering a range of options to contribute to addressing the shortfall in funding.

It also said that the proposal would generate additional income, which would be ring fenced and reinvested back into school budgets.