Flanders is being urged to boost its childcare budget from 800 million euros to 2 billion euros and invest in new training for childcare professionals. This proposal comes from

the Future Group Childcare, which aims to address ongoing issues within Flemish nurseries, as reported by VRT NWS on Friday.

In 2022, Flanders grappled with a series of problems in the childcare sector that have persisted for years. In response, Flemish Social Affairs Minister Hilde Crevits (CD&V) established a working group tasked with devising a plan to revamp childcare. The group comprises experts, labor unions, members of the minister's team, and representatives from the sector.

Professor Michel Vandenbroeck, a senior lecturer in family education at Ghent University, is part of this expert group. He expressed his astonishment at the collective commitment to finding solutions, saying, "I've been a professor for over 30 years, and this is the first time we've had such a comprehensive discussion about what needs to be done." Vandenbroeck also highlighted the group's rapid consensus on the sector's requirements.

One of the primary recommendations put forward by the group is to limit the ratio of supervisors to children to a maximum of five, as opposed to the current nine. Ideally, there would be three supervisors for a group of 15 children, one of whom should hold a university degree.

Achieving these improvements would necessitate a significant budget increase for Flanders, raising it from 800 million to 2 billion euros. Vandenbroeck noted that this level of investment is in line with the approach taken by the Netherlands, which allocates twice as much funding per child per place, while Sweden allocates three times as much. He emphasized that this investment is a societal choice rather than an unaffordable expense.

A recent study conducted by the Support Centre for Welfare, Public Health, and Family, commissioned by Minister Crevits, highlighted that Belgian childcare lags behind other European countries. Belgian childcare professionals are burdened with more children to care for compared to their counterparts in other nations, and group sizes are larger. Minister Crevits emphasized the urgent need to initiate the path towards reducing these ratios.

The Future Group will formally present its long-term plan proposals in March, with the responsibility for implementation falling on the next government. Photo by agriflanders, Wikimedia commons.