Elections 2024: Who should I vote for if I want to see better childcare?

In the run-up to the June elections, Belgium's political parties are staking out their positions on key issues. Today we look at where the Flemish parties stand on childcare.

Childcare, a regional competence in Belgium, has become an important election issue in Flanders after years of crisis. In addition to broader issues of access and affordability, several incidents in nurseries have raised major concerns about quality and safety.

The crisis erupted in early 2022 after a six-month-old girl died from injuries sustained at a nursery in Ghent. The nursery had been allowed to remain open despite numerous complaints and poor inspection results.

Crisis forced minister to resign

Reports of incidents continue to surface throughout the year, including of children being hit, bitten and force-fed by nursery staff. In mid-2022, the Flemish minister for Welfare and Public Health, Wouter Beke, resigned over the issue.

By October 2022, a record 30 nurseries had been shut down for a series of violations. Beke's successor, Hilde Crevits, appointed a working group to come up with a plan to tackle the crisis. In March this year, the group presented its proposals, which included the creation of 29,000 additional childcare places.

Additional investments

Childcare features prominently in the election manifestos of many Flemish parties. All parties agree that childcare in Flanders should become safer, more qualitative and more accessible. 

While the majority parties argue that the first steps have already been taken by the current Flemish government through additional investments, the opposition parties accuse the current government of neglecting childcare.

Almost all parties support additional investment in childcare. The Christan democratic CD&V, the party of the current Flemish Minister for Welfare and Public Health, puts it in concrete terms with an additional 1 billion euros per year. The far-left PVDA party wants to double the childcare budget.

Linking cost to income

The socialist party Vooruit and the far-right party Vlaams Belang are both in favour of reducing the number of children per childcare worker. The green party Groen and PVDA specify a maximum of five children per carer.

Many parties also take up, in their own way, the working group's proposal to link the cost of childcare to family income. The liberal party Open VLD says it is ''maximally in favour of an income-related payment system''. Vooruit wants to make the price of childcare dependent on both the income and the wealth of households, and eventually even make childcare free.

Vooruit also wants to strengthen the inspection of childcare. The Flemish nationalist party N-VA argues that inspections should be more targeted and efficient. Vlaams Belang wants better monitoring of the quality of nurseries and more transparent communication about any incidents.



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