Make childcare accessible, affordable and less complex: SER

All parents should be able to afford to put their children to formal childcare, even if they are not working, government advisory body SER said on Thursday.

SER, which is made up of lay, union and employer organisations, has drawn up suggestions for reforming the childcare sector in the Netherlands which it hopes will become part of the next government’s strategy.

Currently childcare is too expensive for many parents but it can play an important part of child development, SER said. In particular, the children of unemployed parents run a greater risk of starting school with a disadvantage and access to childcare would help ensure equality of opportunity.

The reforms will also boost the number of people in work, because parents would no longer fear losing childcare benefits if their income increased, SER said.

SER also proposes simplifying the childcare benefit system and setting a fixed maximum price for childcare. Some 80% of parents have to deal with ‘corrections’ to their childcare benefits because of the current complications.

Several political parties, including D66 and GroenLinks, have called on the government to make pre-school childcare free, a move which would cost the treasury €5.5bn a year.

Mariëtte Hamer, who is leading the cabinet formation talks, is currently the chairwoman of SER and was part of the working party which drew up the recommendations.

Two days

A survey published last month by parents’ organisations Ouders& Onderwijs and the Stichting Voor Werkende Ouders showed that just over half of parents are in favour of free daycare for children.

Only 52% of the 46,653 respondents said they would support four days of free child care. Some 43% did not like for the idea at all while 5% had no opinion on the subject.

Loes Ypma, chairwoman of day care umbrella organisation Maatschappelijke Kinderopvang, said at the time parents might have shown more support for two days of free child care, which is in line with the average number of days parents take their children to a crèche.

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