MONMOUTHSHIRE could become the last of the five Gwent councils to introduce a scheme offering parents of three and four-year-olds 30 hours of free childcare.

Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly councils are set to roll out the childcare offer from this month (September).

And Monmouthshire County Council could introduce the scheme in January 2019, working in partnership with Newport City Council, if agreed at a cabinet meeting today (Wednesday).

Through the scheme parents are able to access 30 hours of Welsh Government-funded childcare for up to 48 weeks of the year.

To be eligible, parents must work more than 16 hours a week at national minimum or living wage, and earn no more than £100,000 per parent.

Parents will become eligible for the childcare offer from the term following their child’s third birthday until they start full-time education.

The Welsh Government has committed to full implementation of the scheme by September, 2020.

A report prepared ahead of the meeting says that parents are eager for the offer to be made available in Monmouthshire as the cost of childcare has been identified as a barrier for working parents.

"Overall, it is felt that the childcare offer will have a positive impact on both parents and childcare providers," the report adds.

"In addition, it is hoped that the wealth that this generates will have a positive impact on the economy as a whole."

The offer will be available in 14 Welsh local authorities from this month.

Cllr Richard John, cabinet member for children and young people, added: “I am delighted that we are looking to make 30 hours of free childcare available for working parents of three and four years olds in Monmouthshire far earlier than planned.

“The eye-watering costs of childcare can be a real barrier to returning to work for many parents or can severely impact on the family finances."

Cllr Sara Jones, cabinet member for social justice and community development, said expanding free childcare for working parents was "an important plank of the council’s social justice agenda and ensuring opportunities for all."