The Welsh government is spending an extra £19m to double the number of young children it helps for families living in poor areas.

It plans to add 146 projects to the Flying Start programme which offers part-time childcare for under-fours.

Ministers want to increase help from 18,000 children to 36,000 by adding to the 140 locations currently offered.

Run by councils, the £74m service also provides an enhanced health visiting service and parenting help courses.

Communities and Tackling Poverty Minister Huw Lewis, who will announce the move on Monday, said Flying Start was one of the government’s flagship policies.

Mr Lewis said the extra £19m would be used for capital funding as some new facilities will be built as part of the government help.

“Giving the ongoing problems of the economy, combined with the impact of the UK government’s changes to welfare that will squeeze some of the most vulnerable, we will expand Flying Start over the next few years to target specific communities where there are high concentrations of children living in income benefit households.

“We want to provide the best start in life possible for all our children.”

The government says the core elements of the Flying Start programme are drawn from a range of options that are shown to benefit children and families, including:

• Free quality, part-time childcare for two to three-year-olds
• An enhanced health visiting service
• Access to parenting programmes
• Early language development

Mr Lewis added: “This is about providing superb quality child care and support to those who most need it to the benefit of the whole family, and importantly to allow parents the opportunity to gain new skills and look for work.

“Our efforts to prevent poverty start with targeting investment to give children the best possible start in life with early intervention to make sure that children have the opportunity to learn, develop and play.”

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