HOPES are high that the Flying Start scheme can spread its wings to all parts of Blaenau Gwent soon.
The scheme is the Welsh Government’s targeted early years programme for families with children under four years of age who live in some of the poorest parts of Wales.
But part of the issue with this scheme is that children attending the same schools have not received the same support due to the qualifying criteria.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Public Service Board scrutiny committee on Monday, December 13, councillors received a report on a Flying Start pilot scheme in the borough, as well as planned expansion in 2022.
Blaenau Gwent’s children’s services manager, Ceri Bird explained that the new model had been tested in Cwm from September 2020, where part of the village qualifies for Flying Start support and the other half doesn’t.
Ms Bird said: “It was an ideal base to test the new way of working.
“We brought the Cwm community together.”
In September the scheme was given the nod to start working in Brymawr.
Ms Bird said: “Brynmawr doesn’t have any Flying Start areas at all, there are some very vulnerable areas of Brynmawr that needed early years services.
“In the last few weeks, we had a launch event, and the uptake has been really positive.
“The next areas we are moving into are Nantyglo and Blaina.”
She explained that if there was a funding commitment from the Welsh Government for the next five years from the scheme could cover the whole of Blaenau Gwent in two and a half years’ time.
Ms Bird said: “We could become the first authority in Wales to have blanket coverage and none of our families would be discriminated against or told they don’t live in the right areas for support.”
Cllr Baldwin said: “It’s fabulous for Blaenau Gwent and let’s hope we can roll it out as soon as possible as there’s areas in all wards that need it.”
Cllr John Morgan wondered if the difference this scheme makes is measured later in the children’s lives.
Ms Bird said that they hadn’t been asked to collect this information.
Cllr Morgan said: “Perhaps the Welsh Government need to look at that, to make sure progress is being maintained after that good start.”
Cllr John Hill said: “It’s great to see it coming into Brynmawr, the importance of anything like this is communication, and getting the message out there that this service is available.”
Councillors noted and accepted the report.
Launched by the Welsh Government in 2017, Flying Start aims to make a decisive difference to the life chances of children by lessening the impact of poverty, which is linked to poor life outcomes in early childhood, including health outcomes.
The Programme comprises of four entitlements which provide:
Free quality, part-time childcare for two- and three-year-olds.
An intensive health visiting service.
Access to parenting support.
Support for speech, language, and communication development.