A child's hand in an adults hand

Around 6,000 children who attend private crèches free of charge are at risk of losing this right, because the funds allocated have not been updated and the establishments admit they will have to abandon the Creche Feliz program.

The warning was issued today by the president of the Association of Daycare Centers and Small Private Educational Establishments (ACPEEP), Susana Batista, who says it is urgent to update the funds allocated for each child who attends school for free, taking into account inflation and wage increases.

“If the Social Security (SS) reimbursement is not updated, it will be unaffordable for these nurseries to continue within the program,” she warned, adding that “at least a third of the members have their throats cut and this represents around 6,000 vacancies”.

The president of the association says that since the summer she has been alerting the Minister of Social Security to the risk of hundreds of crèches leaving the program, but has received no response so far.

The situation is more serious for nurseries located in areas such as Lisbon, Porto or Oeiras, where rents are higher, and it is also in these geographical areas that there is more demand from families.

The president of the association told Lusa that the only demand from the private sector is to “receive the same amount as all the other crèches for the same service”.

The Creche Feliz program defines that the amount to be paid for each child must be the same for all institutions, whether they are private or in the social sector, but Susana Batista guaranteed that this is not happening.

Speaking to Lusa, she accused the government of paying more to nurseries in the social and solidarity sector than to private institutions.

Last year, the ministry decided to increase the amount allocated for each child by 3%. However, the social and solidarity institutions were paid backdated to January, while the private sector was only paid backdated to September, said Susana Batista.

For eight months, social sector nurseries received 473.80 euros a month for each child, while private institutions received 460 euros. “We have eight months to receive,” he said.

In order to cope with inflation and wage increases, the government decided to allocate “one-off extraordinary support to daycare centers in the Social and Solidarity Sector for 2023, increasing financial contributions by 5%”, a reinforcement that did not reach private institutions that have children in the Creche Feliz program.

The Happy School program started in 2021 and there are currently around 85,000 children in the network, which was extended to private establishments in order to cater for more families.

In January of this year, the government announced that there would be no increase in the salary.

Susana Batista recalls that the minimum wage has risen by 8% and “the other costs will have increased by around 4%”, which is why she is asking the government for a meeting to define “an intermediate rate to be able to cope with these increases”.

Private institutions are also not receiving the supplements provided for in the Happy Daycare regulation for establishments that are open for more than eleven hours a day or on Saturdays, with Susana Batista stating that Social Security has refused to pay.

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