Harmonisation of childcare services

The market for childcare services has been in a state of flux for some time already. One of the urgent issues is the financial harmonisation of pre-school playgroups with childcare arrangements in municipalities. Starting from 1 January 2018, the Harmonisation of Childcare and Pre-school Playgroups and the Childcare Innovation and Quality Act will (for the most part) go into effect. These laws will align the quality requirements, financing and supervision of child day-care centres and pre-school playgroups.

KinderopvangLegal consequences of the harmonisation of childcare services and pre-school playgroups
What are the consequences of this harmonisation? Municipalities are expected to make the necessary plans for ensuring a smooth transition from pre-school playgroups and to play a leading role in this respect. Municipalities are free to shape this harmonisation in the manner that best suits the local situation. This however raises the necessary practical and legal questions in connection with subsidies, state aid and procurement law among other things.

When the laws enter into force, the municipality will continue to be responsible for providing care for children of single earners and non-working parents. Given that the transition will mean that pre-school playgroups become part of the child day-care market, the present subsidies to pre-school playgroups must be reviewed. Where the municipality was previously able to finance pre-school playgroups itself, the relationship with childcare centres will have to be reshaped. This must make it possible to be able to provide a range of choices within the municipality. The higher quality requirements that will apply for pre-school playgroups in respect of supervision and enforcement will have to be taken into account as will the new regulations.

Preschool and Early School Education (VVE)
A recurring question is whether and to what extent a municipality can continue to finance preschool and early school education in the same way as it used to in the past, in particular in the light of state aid law.

In principal, the laws do not change anything with regard to the statutory tasks that municipalities have in respect of preschool and early school education. The municipal financing of the preschool and early school education policy will continue, just as before, to remain out of the scope of state aid law.

The statutory tasks of the municipalities are specifically aimed at combating educational disadvantages faced by certain groups of disadvantaged children. In concrete terms this means that a municipality continues to be legally responsible for a specific supply of preschool and early school education for so-called target group children. They are provided with resources for carrying out this task via the central government.

Some municipalities have however seized the changes in the childcare sector in order to also examine their own preschool and early school education policy closely so that they can then integrate this into their childcare policy. It is important for them that the new municipal preschool and early school education policy should also remain within the correct legal state aid parameters.

In its guide on the legal issues related to harmonisation, theHandreiking Juridische vraagstukken Harmonisatie, Pels Rijcken has made an overview for Sociaal Werk Nederland of the consequences of the Harmonisation of Childcare and Pre-school Playgroups Act with regard to the regulations governing subsidies, tenders and state aid. This guide provides answers to all the legal questions and has been made for policy officers in municipalities. For pre-school playgroup and childcare entrepreneurs, this guide is a useful basis for discussions with their municipalities.

The harmonisation is not only complex but also involves the necessary time pressure. Would you like, without any obligation, to debate this subject with us or do you need advice on changing from pre-school playgroups to pre-school childcare within your municipality? Please contact Allard Knook or Sandra van Heukelom- Verhage.