Proposal to delay almost free childcare for islands until 2027

The introduc­tion of almost-free childcare in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will most likely be postponed un­til 2027.

Dutch caretaker Minister of So­cial Affairs and Labour Karien van Gennip and Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions Carola Schouten allud­ed to this in their reply to written questions submitted by Members of the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament Jorien Wuite and Fonda Sahla, both of the Demo­cratic Party D66.

Wuite and Sahla had asked wheth­er they had understood correctly that Minister Schouten “didn’t see the need” to postpone the imple­menting of almost-free childcare with a parent contribution of 4%, but that Minister Van Gennip didn’t want almost-free childcare on the islands pending the introduction in the Nether­lands.

The ministers explained that based on the comply or explain principle for new legislation, the idea was in the Caribbean Netherlands Childcare Law proposal that the parent contribution on the islands would run parallel as much as possible with that of the Netherlands in the pe­riod 2025-2027.

“This means that there is a phased decrease of the par­ent contribution towards 4% per 2027. Parents who cannot pay the parent contribution can make use of the Temporary Subsidy Regulation Financing Childcare to get the parent contribution com­pensated. For these parents, childcare in the Caribbean Netherlands is free,” the min­isters stated.

Asked by the Members of Parliament (MPs) whether the (lack of) capacity at the childcare organisations was a determining factor in decid­ing to postpone almost-free childcare until 2027, the min­isters stated that it was antici­pated that the implementa­tion of free childcare would increase the pressure on the sector while the sector is al­ready facing challenges to im­prove the quality of childcare.

The public entity Bonaire indicated that there is already a waiting list. This is currently not the case in St. Eusta­tius and Saba. However, the number of qualified peda­gogic childcare employees on the islands is not sufficient as yet to provide the required high-quality childcare. There are challenges to expand the capacity for further growth of day care and to make the nec­essary quality improvements.

There are indeed concerns about the capacity of (suffi­cient qualitative) childcare in the Caribbean Netherlands. However, this was not of such nature that, in the opinion of the Dutch government, it should lead to a delay in the implementation of the Carib­bean Netherlands Childcare Law.

The MPs asked the minis­ters to reflect on almost-free childcare and the issue of poverty in a broader sense, poverty among children and the lack of a social minimum in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The MPs pointed out that in this regard, almost-free childcare would be of “great added value” to tackle these issues.

The ministers explained that the Dutch government has been working on lowering the cost of living and increasing the income of people. One of the ways to do this is by reduc­ing the cost of childcare. That is why the Temporary Subsidy Regulation Financing Child­care Caribbean Netherlands was established. In the mean­time, it remains important to keep improving childcare, which is important so parents can work.

The Daily Herald.

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