Childcare services are gradually recovering after a turbulent period of explosive growth and shrinkage. A recent raise in legal child allowance and a recovering economy means that parents are increasingly willing to place their children under the care of professional childcare providers.
Obviously these economic fluctuations in the business had a practical effect on the employees, because labour represents one of the highest costs of the welfare sector. An effect of which is a continued lagging behind of certain childcare providers, such as after-school care facilities. De Koning Vergouwen is a reliable advisor for restructuring, and during the past few years has consulted round the negotiation table almost every day with trade unions, representative advisory councils, and childcare service providers. In restructuring the childcare services, it has always been essential to carefully balance two important human factors with one another: the delicate relationship of trust between child and infant school teacher and the actual quality. E.g. De Koning Vergouwen advised the implementation of ‘forced reduction in working hours (with unemployment benefit)’ a leading case relating to employment law. This enabled childcare service providers to decide themselves on staff numbers and working hours. Tailor-made services are now required in a trade where so many infants have to feel comfortable.
The field of childcare service provision has changed in the last few years. Parents have become more critical consumers. Besides, since the most recent remodelling of the Dutch Childcare Act [Wet kinderopvang, Wko] greater social and educational requirements are demanded from the sector. The distinction is disappearing between playschools for so-called ‘target group children’ and the care for children of working parents. The emphasis is now on childcare services as a developmental instrument for all children. In this way day-care centres serve as a sort of preschool, where children from socially precarious environments are given the opportunity to eliminate their language deficiency, even before they enter primary school.
The traditional playschool, earlier classed as a branch of welfare service provision and subsidized as such, now must meet the quality requirements of the Dutch Childcare Act. This switch from welfare to childcare services has consequences for safety guidelines prescribed by municipalities regarding locations of childcare services, but also for the employees’ quality and dedication. The employees, often inspired and enthusiastic, in the past working partly voluntarily in playschools, had to retrain or apply for their own job. Similar sensitive transition procedures of playgroups and preschools are in good hands with our firm, exactly because we have worked for so many years at the interface of childcare services and welfare. It was no accident that we entered into a master agreement with the employers’ organization in Childcare services, the Association for the Childcare Sector in the Netherlands, as well as in welfare, the Dutch employers’ organization of the welfare, youth care, and childcare sectors [MOgroep: Maatschappelijk Ondernemers Groep]. Also in the field of ‘Good Governance’ in the childcare services –improving structures of participation in decision-making and a sensible payment of administrators– a major similarity exists with the required standards in the welfare sector.