A target to ensure young children in the poorest parts of Wales have a health visitor and free childcare is close to being met, two years early. More than 31,000 children joined the Welsh government's flagship Flying Start programme last year, which is up by a third.
The programme is aimed at giving disadvantaged children the best start in life when it comes to health and other services and includes more regular contact with health visitors and more support for parents.
New figures on the programme show:
- A third more children benefited from Flying Start in 2013/14 than the year before (31,322 compared with 23,579).
- Health visitors saw Flying Start children under four an average of 5.8 times
- More than 80% of two and three-year olds are hitting or exceeding targets for normal child development
- 78% of children living in Flying Start areas were fully immunised by their fourth birthday
- There has been a fall in childcare take-up from 90% to 86% of those eligible due to "specific problems and consequent very low take-up in some local authorities". Torfaen was the lowest with 65.
Source: Welsh government
However, there is still concern at the variation in take-up of part-time childcare for two and three-year olds.
The Welsh government said free part-time childcare in Flying Start was not compulsory so it expected to see an element of variation across local authorities.
The hope is to see the level of variation diminish as the programme continues.