Free child care in 2024, is it possible?

free childcare

The news has been full of it in recent months: the plan for "free child care. Of course, this not only raises many questions among parents, but also uncertainties. Therefore, the question that needs to be asked is not "Is child care free?" but, "free child care, is it possible at all?".

A simpler system

Cabinet Rutte IV wants a simpler system to prevent a new scandal like the benefits affair. In the benefits affair, parents were unfairly labeled as fraudsters and had to repay the child care benefits they received. This led to sky-high debts and even to children being placed out of home.

In 2023, however, there will be no free childcare. As of January 1, 2023, however, the link to the number of hours worked has been loosened. A parent who works one hour a month can therefore be entitled to childcare allowance for up to 230 hours of childcare. Because this condition is dropped, parents with irregular working hours, for example, no longer have to estimate how many hours per month the least working parent works. This saves parents arithmetic and unnecessary mistakes in the application.

Under the new system, child care subsidies for parents will disappear. The target implementation date for this scheme is Jan. 1, 2025. Instead of paying supplement to parents, the government will pay the amount directly to child care centers. The amount reimbursed will be 96%. Parents will then only have to pay 4% of the cost as a co-payment. The co-payment makes no distinction in income. The percentage remains the same for everyone. This should make the system fairer for all households.

Child care allowance law change

Currently, the Hague is working hard on legislative changes to make the above possible. It is expected that the plans for virtually free child care will cost about 6.5 billion euros per year. The details of the plans have not yet been worked out in concrete terms. Things such as whether there will be a flat rate, for example, are not yet known.

This arrangement will apply from 2025 only to Dutch parents who work. The government has also indicated plans to provide children of non-working parents with virtually free child care. The government plans for this to take effect in 2028.

How likely is free child care?

Free child care is a fine endeavor that we fully support. Equity starts with the youngest children and childcare is extremely beneficial for a child's development. However, it is questionable whether free childcare is feasible in the Netherlands. The industry association doubts whether the organizations can cope. This is because the child care sector is facing huge personnel shortages. There has been more demand than supply for a number of years and this has also led to huge waiting lists at De Kleine Houtrakkers. This problem will most likely get worse if the threshold for bringing children to day care becomes lower.

The Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP) also has serious doubts about the new scheme. According to the SCP, the plans will cause the gap between rich and poor to widen. Especially rich families will benefit, while children of working poor will not go to daycare any faster. It does not create more opportunities for poorer children, concludes the SCP. Nor will it make parents work more; instead, grandparents' babysitting days will be cancelled and parents will send their children to daycare more often, according to the SCP.

Want to know more about your situation?

Are you curious what the scheme looks like in your situation? Then be sure to use our free calculator tool, or drop by one of our locations in Haarlem. We are happy to help you on your way!

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