Flexibility key to family programme access issue
MORE flexibility is needed to identify which families are eligible for a pre- school education programme, which helps prepare youngsters for school, according to a city AM.
Mike Hedges, who represents Swansea East, said it is time to look again at how people are identified as being eligible for the Welsh Government's Flying Start early years programme, which is aimed at families with children under the age of four, in deprived areas of Wales.
It follows the case of a Clydach mum Jemma Lewis, who had hoped her two-year-old son Camsey would be able to access Flying Start, which provides early language development as well as access to parenting programmes and part-time childcare.
But Ms Lewis, who lives on Heol Craigfelen, said she had been told that her son would not be eligible for Flying Start, even though others living on the same street were.
Mr Hedges questioned the way families were assessed.
He said: "When some children start nursery school aged three, they can be two years behind others in terms of development then something needs to be done.
"It is incredibly difficult to reduce this gap over the eight years children are in primary education, this needs addressing before they start nursery school.
"To be eligible for Flying Start, the family or individual must meet certain criteria, such as being pregnant or have at least one child aged 0-3 years, and live within the catchment areas. First time parents or those who need particular help with parenting are identified through a health assessment, and appropriate support given for their needs.
"This area based approach misses many children who live in areas outside the designated area who have the same or greater needs. It is imperative that action is taken to ensure that these children do not miss out.
"Whilst the census area data catches most areas of poverty and children who need support the problem occurs where there are either pockets of deprivation or more often where the boundary used is not a community boundary and so consequently an area alongside a flying start or community first area of equal or even greater need is missed. I believe that either a greater flexibility is needed or that a better method of identifying those in need, especially for flying start must be found. We owe it to our children to ensure that they all have an equal opportunity and that it does not become a post code lottery."
A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Local authorities are best placed to make these decisions based on data and their knowledge of local needs.
"They must do this against the criteria set by the Welsh Government.
"As part of the expansion of Flying Start we will be building a small element of outreach work to support the most vulnerable families outside of the defined areas ."