The expansion of a free childcare scheme could now see 150 extra children living in some of Gwynedd’s most deprived areas benefit.

It comes after Gwynedd Council's cabinet  unanimously agreed an initiative aimed at widening the Flying Start scheme to include more two year olds.

The scheme is part of the Welsh Government’s early years programme for families with children from 0 to four years old.

It is operated in Gwynedd by the council’s Children and Families’ Support Department.

Currently available in six Gwynedd communities, it offers a range of services including hours of free child-care to some.

A new offer would see an expansion of the provision to include more areas.

Cllr Dilwyn Morgan introduced the item to the council's cabinet meeting, hailing it as “positive, good news,” on Tuesday, 26 April.

“The aim is to expand the scheme to all two year olds in Wales. Which is very good news,” he said.

The assistant head of supporting families, Catrin Thomas, described how it concerned “a gradual expansion” of the Flying Start programme possible following the Welsh Government’s release of further capital expenditure.

“This is only the initial part of the offer to extend, it will be a universal offer eventually,” she said.

“In Gwynedd, 150 children will benefit, in addition to a current childcare offer for three-four year olds and will gradually bring childcare to all two year olds in the county.

There was now an “additional investment of around £4million for the childcare sector”.

Cllr Beca Brown welcomed the plan to expand the scheme, saying it was “incredibly good news” and would give “all sorts of advantages”.

It would provide a ”best start in life” to children, in an age group that had been “disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” she said.

“It will help more people go back to back, addresses gender in equality as more woman than men identify care as a barrier to work.”

Cllr  Dafydd Meurig said it was a “fantastic thing” but hoped it would be able to run long term and queried staffing and the ability to deliver the programme.

Catrin Thomas replied that staffing “was challenging” but no different to any other areas, and “work was under way to address the problem”.

In its second phase, the scheme would  target areas with the highest levels of child poverty – according to the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Identified areas included Hendre (Bangor), Penygroes, Pwllheli, South Barmouth, Hirael and Garth (Bangor), Porthmadog – Tremadog,  Bala Teigl, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Seiont (Caernarfon) and Dewi (Bangor).

Llanbedr, Llandderfel and Llanuwchllyn and Deiniolen were also identified as having high levels of deprivation among families and children under four.

Cllr Morgan outlined the recommendations which were to: “Accept the grant offer to expand the Flying Start Programme in the county and also to delegate the right to the head of children and supporting families, in consultation with the head of finance, to prepare and submit individual business cases to the Welsh Government for the Childcare and Early Years Capital Program and to accept grant offers on behalf of the Council.”

They were proposed by Cllr Morgan, seconded by Cllr Beca Brown. The vote was unanimous.

A statement from the council last week stated if the cabinet approved the recommendation, the Welsh Government would invest almost £630,000 through its Children and Communities Grant.

It added it could also see the development of purpose-built buildings to help families with childcare in the early years at Deiniolen, Bangor and Penygroes.