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Minister says that 7,000 additional crèche places are needed in Flanders

The Flemish Minister responsible for social provision and the family Hilde Crevits (Christian democrat) has said that both extra capacity and improvements in quality are needed in childcare provision in Flanders. Although more than 60% of babies and toddlers are currently able to attend daycare provision or go to a child minder in our region, Flanders is still around 7,000 places short. 

In its annual report the Flemish government Agency ‘Opgroeien’ (Growing up) whose responsibilities included the licencing and supervision of childcare provision writes that 6 out of 10 children aged between 6 months and 3 years are able to attend childcare provision of some kind. Of these two-thirds attend crèches, while the rest go to child-minders.

At the end of last year, there were 6,340 places in Flanders that provided childcare. This figure includes the Brussels crèches and childminders that were registered with the Flemish authorities. There was room for a total of 94,681 babies and toddlers, a fall of 243 compared with the situation at the end of 2020.  For every 100 children between the ages of 0 and 3 years there are about 45 places in Flemish childcare.

7,000 extra places

Although provision is more widespread than in many other countries it is still insufficient to meet demand. The Flemish Minister responsible for social provision and the family Hilde Crevits (Christian democrat) says that she is aware of this. "A forecast was made at the start of this legislature. It turned out that by the end of the legislature, 7,000 additional places will be needed in childcare. They will be provided." Ms Crevits added that “During this legislature, an additional 120 million euros will be invested in childcare."

In addition to extra places, there is also an urgent need for extra staff. Like many other sectors, childcare is suffering from acute staff shortages. According to the latest figures from the Flemish Emploment and Vocational Training Service VDAB, at the end of May there were almost 900 unfilled vacancies for nursery nurses.

However, Ms Crevits says that around 1,000 people are hoping to train as nursery nurses and that a meeting is planned at the start of next month to examine how more people can be put to work in childcare.

Confidence in childcare

The figures quoted above are from 2021. This is before issues around carecare came to the fore after several case of malpractice emerged.

Ms Crevits told journalists that “It's very important that people can have confidence in childcare. Hence my plea to provide not only sufficient capacity, but also quality in the extra places provided. Of course, you can never completely rule out the possibility that something will go wrong at childcare facility. That is why it is also very important that our control mechanisms work very well, that the inspectorate does its job well and that if there are disturbing signs or complaints they are properly investigated.

Differences between the provinces

The figures show that children are mainly cared for in the municipality in which they live. Just over 1 in four go to a crèche or a child minder in another municipality.

There are differences between the provinces. In Flemish Brabant just 60.2% of babies and toddlers go to a crèche or a child minder. In West Flanders this is more than 7 out of 10. Almost 60% of the children that attend childcare facilities in Flanders first did so before they were 6 months old.

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