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Your childcare rights: Wales

Knowing what your legal rights are can help make sure that you and your child get the support you need. Sometimes, just showing that you’re aware of your rights can quickly nip any problems in the bud.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is an important law that provides disabled children with a number of rights and protections. All permanently deaf children will meet the definition of disability.

The Equality Act 2010 means that public bodies, including local authorities and childcare providers:

  • can’t discriminate against your child. In other words, a childcare provider can’t refuse to accept your child simply because they are deaf. They also can’t treat your child less favourably than other children by, for example, not allowing them to do certain activities that other children are able to do
  • must make reasonable adjustments
  • promote equality of opportunity for disabled children.

What are reasonable adjustments?

If a child is disadvantaged by something that the setting does, and if there are any simple or inexpensive things that the setting can do to overcome this, they must do it. This is known as making reasonable adjustments.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

  • Making sure there are subtitles on the TV if showing a children’s programme
  • Staff receiving training on how to use a radio aid
  • If the reading corner is in an area with poor acoustics or lighting, moving to somewhere better for your child
  • Providing ‘auxiliary aids’ – this includes, for example, radio aids.

Most reasonable adjustments cost little or nothing and are relatively easy to put in place. You have an important role to play in letting the childcare know what steps they can take to support your child.

What is reasonable will depend on their size and financial resources. It may be easier for a local authority or a large nursery to make a reasonable adjustment than it is for a small childminder.

For more information go to The Equality Act and your child's education.

Additional learning needs (ALN)

A new system for supporting children and young people with additional learning needs in Wales was implemented in a phased approach in 2021. See The Additional Learning Needs Code and regulations. This aims to make sure that children with additional learning needs get the support they need to achieve their full potential.

Find out more about the changes in Wales on our page Additional learning needs (ALN) in Wales. We will update the website with more information on the new system in Wales shortly, in the meantime see Written Statement: Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal Act 2018 Implementation.

Special educational needs (SEN)

Your child has special educational needs if they have or are likely to have much more difficulty in learning than other children of the same age. The Welsh Government has said that all children with a permanent hearing loss should be viewed as having a special educational need (SEN), but this can sometimes depend on the approach taken in the local area to identifying and labelling children’s needs.

Some children in Wales with still be classed as having special educational needs, despite the new additional learning needs system that has been put in place. If this applies to you, the information below regarding the SEN Code of Practice may still be relevant. All SEN support plans (including Statements, IEPs and LSPs) will eventually be replaced with ALN Individual Development Plans (IDPs).

Nurseries and any childcare providers that are funded by the local authority must, as much as possible, follow guidance, called the SEN Code of Practice. Chapter four of the Code applies to early years settings.

The Code says that early years settings should:

  • have a written policy on how they support children with SEN, and make this freely available to parents
  • ensure there is someone who has overall responsibility for children with SEN in the setting and who can also provide support to parents. This is known as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or an Additional Learning Needs Coordinator (ALNCO)
  • take action if it appears that a child is not making adequate progress. This should involve assessing the child’s needs and providing additional support. This stage is known as ‘Early Years Action’
  • seek external advice if the child still doesn’t seem to be making adequate progress, such as from a Teacher of the Deaf. This stage is known as ‘Early Years Action Plus’
  • record any additional support that your child receives in an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

If you feel that your child has needs that go beyond what the early years provider can reasonably provide or are likely to be able to provide, you have the right to ask the local authority to carry out a statutory assessment of your child’s needs. If the local authority agrees, this assessment may lead to a statement of SEN. This is a legal document which sets out the support that the local authority must provide.

You have the right to appeal if the local authority refuses to carry out a statutory assessment or to appeal over the contents of a statement of SEN.

Read our factsheets on the SEN system for more information.

Foundation Phase

You have the right for your child to begin education in a childcare setting that follows the Foundation Phase after your child’s third birthday. The law says that the local authority must ensure this education is free, part-time and ‘good quality’.

All nurseries and playgroups funded by the local authority and registered childminders must follow the Foundation Phase for children aged three to seven. This sets out requirements for how children’s early learning should develop and there is a focus on practical activities and active learning experiences, both indoors and outdoors.

There are seven areas of learning and development:

  • physical and social development, wellbeing and cultural diversity
  • language, literacy and communication skills
  • mathematical development
  • Welsh language development
  • knowledge and understanding of the world
  • physical development
  • creative development.

You should receive a written report each year on how well your child is progressing.

Settings are expected to work with specialist services to ensure that disabled children are able to access the curriculum.

Registration and inspection

All childminders and daycare providers must register with the Care Inspectorate for Wales (CIW) unless any particular exemptions apply. Nannies, au pairs or home carers don’t need to register.

The CIW care service directory allows you to see if a childminder or day care provider is registered and to view any inspection reports. Not all inspection reports are published online by CIW and you may need to contact CIW to ask for a copy.

CIW inspect childcare providers under a set of national minimum standards, which include requirements on, for example:

  • staff ratios and qualifications
  • space
  • management
  • safeguarding policies
  • complaints procedures.

Nurseries and any childcare providers that receive funding from the local authority will also be inspected by Estyn (the education and training inspectorate for Wales) at least once every six years. These inspections focus on how the childcare is meeting the education needs of children. Estyn will look at:

  • how they improve outcomes
  • how good the provision is
  • leadership and management.

Estyn will say whether they think provision is:

  • excellent
  • good
  • adequate
  • unsatisfactory.

They will also indicate if any follow up activity is needed by, for example, the local authority or Estyn.

You can find an inspection report on the Estyn website.


You may be entitled to help with the costs of childcare for your child.

All three to four-year olds are entitled to 10 hours free childcare a week over term time (or 39 weeks over the year). Some local authorities may provide additional support.

Some low income families with children aged two to three may be eligible for two-and-a-half hours of free childcare over a five day week for 39 weeks (and 15 sessions of provision during the school holidays). This is being provided under the Flying Start programme. The Family Information Service for the area should be able to provide you with information on whether you are eligible and if this is available in your area.

At the time of writing, the Welsh Government intends to start offering 30 hours a week of free childcare for three and four-year-olds in Wales over 48 weeks.

In some areas, there may be an Assisted Places and Helping Hands scheme for parents of disabled children. The Family Information Service for your area should be able to let you know if this is the case.

The Welsh Government website has more information about funding for childcare.

Childcare legislation and guidance

Under the Childcare Act 2006, local authorities must also make sure, as much as possible, that there is enough or “sufficient” childcare in the area for parents of disabled children. Government guidance also says that they should produce a report and an action plan on how they’re making sure there is enough childcare to meet the needs of disabled children, known as a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment. This should be published on the local authority website.

Local authorities must also provide information to parents about childcare available in the area. You can find this information on the Coram Family and Childcare website.

Making a complaint

If you have any concerns, try discussing it with the manager of the childcare. In most cases, you should be able to resolve any problems with them directly. Depending on the type of childcare, they may have a complaints policy.

If this doesn’t address your concern, you can also contact the CIW.

You can also seek advice from your local Family Information Service or contact our Freephone Helpline.

If your complaint is about the range of childcare provision available in your area, you can complain to the local authority. Your local authority website should contain information about how you can do this.