Flintshire jobs fear as Flying Start grant stopped

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CHILDMINDERS across Flintshire face an uncertain future amid fears that vital funding will be stopped.

Playgroup workers fear redundancy is on the cards after the Welsh Assembly Government announced the Flying Start grant, which pays their salaries, will come to an end in March.

It is still unclear whether the grant, which provides free childcare for children in disadvantaged communities in Wales, will be reinstated beyond April 2011.

Staff from Buckley Bistre Babes Parent and Toddler Group voiced their concerns to Mark Isherwood, AM for North Wales, when he visited them to mark National Childminders’ Week.

Mr Isherwood said: “Concern was expressed to me regarding uncertainty over future Flying Start funding for childcare support providers and childminders, and therefore over employment security for childminders. I believe that current funding arrangements only run to March 2011.”

Speaking on behalf of the group, Catrin Fletcher from the National Childminders Association told the Leader: “We would be concerned if funding was under threat after March 2011 given the current sustainability issues reported by childminders.

“During a period of recession families need funded childcare more than ever to help them find work or study and the removal of funding could be of detriment to work aiming to reduce child poverty.”

Treuddyn councillor Carolyn Thomas, a former committee member at Treuddyn Playgroup, said the move could force many playgroups as well as other children’s organisations to close.

“Flying Start is a grant from the Cymorth funding pot on behalf of the Assembly,” she said.

“If they are stopping the grant to childminders they could be stopping funding to other play schemes and playgroups.

“If they lose their grants they cannot afford to keep running and will lose their groups.”

Playgroups are already struggling after being hit with room rental hikes in April.

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: “The programme was approved for an initial three years and this funding runs to the end of the 2010/11 financial year.

“Of course all programmes are subject to discussions in relation to wider budgetary constraints that we are facing, but programmes such as Flying Start will need to feature heavily in those discussions.”

Finance minister Jane Hutt says she will be supporting the Flying Start scheme “all the way” and hopes it will also receive support from across the chamber.

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