Choosing affordable childcare: how to go about it?
One of the first things you need to arrange during your pregnancy is your baby’s future childcare. The waiting lists are still long, particularly for the most sought-after nurseries. Should you choose a childcare facility close to your home or work, a childminder or nursery? And how can you keep your childcare costs in check? This overview will help you get started.
What types of paid childcare are available?
In addition to price, the type of childcare will also determine your choice. Where will your baby feel most comfortable? In a loving and homely environment, or a group setting with plenty of social stimuli?
There are two types of paid childcare: childminders or nurseries. Childminders are small-scale and the childcare is supervised by one person, usually in the childminder's own home. Nurseries are larger and the childcare is supervised by multiple staff members. Childminders take care of an average of 4 children (up to a maximum of 8 in Flanders and 10 in Wallonia and Brussels). In nurseries the groups comprise a minimum of 9 children.
How much does one day of childcare cost?
On average, you pay between 5.24 euros and 29.09 euros per day of childcare.
On average, you pay between 28 euros and 32 euros per day of childcare.
1. Income-related childcare
Many childminders and nurseries charge an income-related rate (a price based on your income). This type of childcare is more cost-effective than independent childcare facilities that charge a fixed daily rate. The income-related rate depends on your combined taxable income and the number of dependent children in your family. Depending on your situation, you’ll pay between 5.24 euros and 29.09 euros per day of childcare (2019 rates). This amount includes all costs, so you won't be faced with any unexpected surprises. You can visit the Kind & Gezin website ONEwebsite to calculate what your income-related rate amounts to. To be entitled to the income-related rate, request a certificate from Kind & Gezin.
The advantage of income-related childcare is that you benefit from 18 grace days. This means you don't have to pay for the days on which your child is absent.
Additionally, you get a tax certificate for an amount that can be deducted from your taxes. This is done under Code 1384 in your tax return. Your fiscal benefit amounts to a tax deduction of 45 to 65 percent of your expenditure, depending on your income.
2. Non-income-related childcare
Licensed non-income-related nurseries or childminders are also monitored by Kind & Gezin, and must therefore satisfy the necessary licensing conditions and quality requirements. If you opt for a non-income-related nursery, then prices will vary per childcare facility. On average, prices are between 28 and 32 euros per day of childcare.
This price doesn’t normally include all costs. Therefore, always ask about possible additional costs, such as nappies or hygiene products. It’s also useful to know what happens if your child is absent for a longer period of time due to illness. The childcare facility must clearly specify all price-related information in their internal rules and your written agreement.
KidsLife can assist with the cost of non-income-related childcare through a Childcare Allowance. This amounts to 3.23 euros per child, per day of childcare provided. You can find more information here.
You enjoy a tax benefit (via a tax certificate specifying an amount that can be deducted from your taxes) for this form of childcare too. This is done under Code 1384 in your tax return.
If you live in Brussels or Wallonia, this is not an automatic process and you must request your Childcare Allowance here. This is conditional on your child attending Dutch-language, non-income-related childcare.
Where can I find suitable childcare?
There are various websites and channels that provide an overview of childcare facilities in your area. Be sure to check the Kind & Gezin search tool / ONE search tool. These list all licensed childcare facilities near you. The licence shows that the childcare facility in question has satisfied the necessary conditions and quality requirements, and that you are entitled to a tax certificate. Looking for impartial information and support during your search? Then you can also contact the LocalChildcare Service Desk in your town or municipality.
How do I make the right choice?
You’ve made a list of potential childcare facilities. So far so good. But what's next? Well, you’re not going to blindly choose a childcare facility without first checking it out in person. In some cases, you can only visit the childcare facility after enrolling your child. Ask questions about the number of childcare hours provided, the food, daily structure, opportunities for outdoor play, precepts and educational approach, whether they have set holiday periods you need to be aware of, communication with parents, etc. The Kind & Gezin website provides a handy overview and video on how to make the right choice and which questions to ask. After all, you want to be sure you’ve made the right choice, don't you?
Don't worry, you’ll know if it feels right very quickly. At the end of your (sometimes lengthy) search, you weigh up all the options and go with your gut instinct. But be careful about blindly following your intuition. Your little one can't tell you how he or she feels, so it’s a good idea to obtain additional information about your preferred childcare facility from the local community, other parents or schools. Confident about your choice? Then have faith and all will be well.
OK, I’ve made my choice. But full-time childcare is far too expensive.
The cost of paying for childcare five days a week can quickly mount up, particularly if the childcare facility applies a non-income-related rate. And do you really want to leave your little one in childcare five days a week? That can be difficult for new parents, and understandably so. Of course, sometimes there’s no other option. But with a little creativity, you might be able to reduce the number of paid childcare days that you require.
Weigh up the costs and benefits:
- Is taking parental leave or time credit on a 1/5 basis (and consequently allowing one or both parents to provide one day of childcare per week) an option? Ask your trade union about the implications of such an arrangement on your income. And compare with the cost of full-time childcare. Sometimes working part time is cheaper than paying for full-time childcare.
- Can you ask grandparents or others in your social network to pitch in? Once a week on a set day, for example? This costs absolutely nothing, and grandparents will often jump at the chance of spending more quality time with their grandchildren. So, never dismiss their offer out of hand. Take it from us, you’ll be glad of the occasional opportunity to outsource your childcare!
So, that’s your childcare taken care of. Time for the next item on that seemingly endless baby to-do list. Good luck!