Cost of daycare and afterschool programs will be significantly reduced

Parents residing in the Caribbean Netherlands are going to pay a lot less for daycare and afterschool programs. In a debate on Wednesday, April 17, most members of the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament supported the draft law Childcare BES, but questioned the parental contribution, requirements and quality.

Parents in Bonaire still paid US $140 to $350 per month for childcare in 2018. Currently, parents pay, on average, a monthly contribution of $75 to $100 for daycare, and $40 to $100 for afterschool programs. But they are going to pay even less in the foreseeable future. By 2027, their contribution will only amount to 4% of the total cost, explained caretaker Minister for Policy, Participation and Pensions Carola Schouten.

“We expect that the parental contribution for daycare will be about $40 per month and afterschool programs will cost about $20 per month. Of course, this depends on the cost of the childcare itself, but it is a considerable decrease of parental contribution,” she said.

Parents who cannot afford this contribution can ask the local government for financial support. This is already the case: on Bonaire, 16% of children make use of that support; on St. Eustatius 6%; and on Saba 41%. The minister expects the numbers to go up for Bonaire and St. Eustatius, because her ministry has gathered that some people do not make use of this policy.

Raoul White (Groen-links-PVDA)

According to Raoul White, Groenlinks-PvdA Member of Parliament (MP) with Surinamese roots, affordable child care is an important step in the “long road” to equity between the European and Caribbean Netherlands. “The draft law that we are discussing today is a step in the right direction. It is a step in the direction of equity for everyone in our kingdom. Whether you live in the European or Caribbean part of the Netherlands, you have equal rights to a decent life. The draft law not only allows for childcare but also for integration and equal opportunities for every child, no matter their background. It makes childcare a lot more affordable and thus more accessible.

“The law also allows for quality requirements, parental participation, and better connection to education,” he said in his first speech in the Second Chamber, his so-called maiden speech.

White is one of the MPs who asked Schouten whether childcare could be completely free, by completely eliminating the parental contribution. He argued that childcare should be a public facility, like schools, which also do not require such a monthly contribution. But, according to Schouten, unlike education, child care is not mandatory — it is a choice, and thus not a public facility that everyone must use.

That being said, childcare is a necessity for most parents on the islands, said the minister. Almost 70% of all children in the Caribbean Netherlands go to daycare or afterschool programs. In the European Netherlands, about 60% make use of childcare services. Schouten does not expect this percentage on the islands to increase substantially when child care becomes more affordable. When the contribution decreased in 2020, the numbers remained mostly the same.

Some MPs were more critical of the draft law. In his maiden speech, Peter van Haasen of the PVV party said that much was still uncertain. He argues that, with the increase of minimum wage, parents might not need more affordable child care. “This increase of social security will contribute to well-being and self-reliance. This could give parents more financial freedom for daycare and after-school programs. Parents usually take better care of their children than of themselves.” He also questions whether the affordability will contribute to quality improvements and a better connection to schools. “Children are the main priority for us. What will improve quality-wise for child care if the bill is just paid by another subsidy?,” he asks.

The Dutch government is still paying for childcare, but now the subsidy will become structural, which is an important prerequisite for innovation, explains Schouten. The quality requirements are also clearer, and the same for all three islands. For example, the goal is that two out of three child caregivers have achieved the third level of secondary vocational education MBO. One-third of employees may have a lower education level, including interns. “Then you’ll always see people with different qualifications, but that does not have to be a bad thing, because we need lots of loving people and lots of hands in childcare.”

At the end of the debate, MP White submitted a motion that would require the Dutch government to actively help local governments carry out innovations to increase the quality of daycare on Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba. The Second Chamber will evaluate this motion on Tuesday, April 23.

The Daily Herald

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