On Thursday the 16th of February, the draft Law Kinderopvang BES (Childcare in Caribbean Netherlands) was presented to the House of Representatives. This proposal for a new law lays down the basic rules for the quality, supervision and financing of childcare on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius. The aim is to provide good, safe and affordable childcare for all children in the Caribbean Netherlands, so that every child has the opportunity to fully develop himself.
The quality requirements in the proposal for a new law largely corresponds to the requirements that already apply through the Island Regulations on childcare. These include requirements on pedagogical conduct, child safety and health policy. With the BES(t) 4 kids programme many childcare organisations are already well on their way to meeting these quality requirements.
The proposal for a new law also contains quality requirements to ensure that the transition of children from childcare to primary school is smooth and developmental and learning disadvantages are prevented. Therefore, day care centers have to work with a programme for pre-school education and the development of children has to be monitored. Agreements must also be made between childcare and schools about how the transition will be organised. The intention is that primary schools offer an early childhood education programme in groups 1 and 2, that complements the programme in childcare.
Children who need extra support are accommodated within regular groups as much as possible. To support childcare organisations for children with minor problems, the public entity will provide pedagogical support and advice. In case of more serious problems, the Expertise Center Education Care (EC2) can be called in to make or have a diagnosis made, to guide the child to specialist care or to refer the child to plus-care. Plus-care is care especially for children with additional support needs, where, for instance, the areas are adapted and where extra-trained pedagogical staff work.
Based on the proposal for a new law, the Inspectorate of Education will be designated as the supervisor of childcare quality. In carrying out supervision, the Inspectorate works together with local inspectors of the public entity and will, certainly in the first years, carry out stimulating supervision. This means that supervision is aimed at improving the quality of childcare.
According to the proposal for a new law, the central government will largely finance childcare. In 2023 a follow-up study into the costs of childcare will be carried out. Based on the results of this study, the level of childcare fees and parental contributions will be determined.
The parental contribution will be lowered further to 4% of the cost price at the moment this will also apply in the European Netherlands. The cost of childcare will then be no more than a few tens of dollars for a month of full care that parents continue to pay to the childcare center. For parents that are unable to pay, the Public Entity may also decide to fully compensate the parental contribution. For parents who qualify, childcare is free.
Before the proposal becomes final, it will be submitted to the House of Representatives and the Senate and to the King for signing. The Law will enter into force in phases. It is expected that in 2024, the parts related to quality and supervision will come into force. The part relating to financing will follow at a later date.
In addition, work is being done on the further elaboration of the proposal for a new law in an Order in Council (Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur). This will include further requirements for certain components relating to quality and supervision. In the first half of 2023, a consultation round will take place about this Order in Council with, among others, childcare organisations, schools and parents on all three islands.
The website www.best4kids.nu (click on ‘Statutory scheme’) has a summary of the law proposal and an animated video about the proposal.