WISERD’s bespoke analytical tools were used in a Welsh Government research project to assess whether the existing supply of childcare in Wales can cope with the increased demand due from a change in Government policy.
The research and analysis was conducted by WISERD Co-Director Prof Gary Higgs and Dr Mitchel Langford of the University of South Wales, together with the Welsh Government and Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).
The Welsh Government has announced that it intends to provide 30 hours a week of free early education and childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds in Wales, for 48 weeks of the year. Their aim is to deliver this through a combination of early education and private childcare.
Through mapping and analysing the current supply of childcare using a geographic information systems (GIS) software, and modelling which areas in Wales are likely to have a higher demand, the team identified those areas in Wales where there appears to be a considerable under-provision of current childcare service providers, which in turn could make the current Welsh Government promise to introduce 30 hours of free childcare potentially problematic.
Dr Langford said: “This recent media coverage has highlighted just one of several areas in which our research activity is impacting upon the policy development and decision making processes of various external bodies with whom we are currently working in close partnership.”
He also noted that all of the current commentators appear to have made the erroneous assumption that figures appearing in this report record the hours of childcare availability-per-week, presumably because that is the way the childcare offer has been widely reported upon in the past. However, they are in fact a measure of childcare availability in hours-per-day per eligible child. Whilst this still means there is currently a clear deficit in provision overall, and that there are widely varying levels of coverage geographically, the potential shortfall is much less severe than recent reports have been suggesting.
Sarah Crocker, Head of Policy Analysis for the Childcare Offer at the Welsh Government, said that "the work conducted, particularly the GIS maps produced by Mitch and Gary, have been of value to Welsh Government in providing a real contribution to the evidence base for childcare policy making in Wales.
"The work has raised further research questions for the childcare policy team to consider in terms of what drives this mismatch in supply and demand and whether stimulation of the sector is required to increase childcare capacity in those areas."