The Government has signed the formal agreement with service providers for the provision of free childcare services for working parents. The signing was presided by Education and Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo, and Finance Minister Prof. Edward Scicluna.
The free childcare service agreement is expected to result in an increase in usage of childcare services by as many as 350,000 hours between April and December 2014 when compared to the same period during the previous year.
As from April, as many as 1,800 mothers are expected to be able to benefit from this service. On average, children will spend four additional hours in childcare than they are doing currently. The current average is 22.1 hours per week. The amount of working women who will be able to start benefiting from free childcare as from next week has already exceeded 150 based on current estimates.
The agreement will mean an increase in the income of childcare service providers by approximately €1 million, further supporting the industry. The Government has already begun receiving applications for free childcare services at an accelerated rate.
In a brief address during the signing, Finance Minister Prof. Edward Scicluna said that the Government is looking towards the free childcare services initiative as a tangible solution to Malta’s long-standing low rate of female labour participation, which was also identified as one of Malta’s Country Specific Recommendations by the European Union.
Prof. Scicluna explained that the free childcare services initiative was conceived as an electoral pledge because the issue was high on Malta’s priority list. He also explained that the measure was fashioned in a manner that would allow the Government to tap into a resource that was heretofore rendered inaccessible by parental duties the prohibitive expenses of childcare services.
Prof. Scicluna also explained that the Government’s intention is to treble the childcare service sector by providing the adequate incentives, as well as supplying the necessary training and courses for service providers.
In his address, Education and Employment Minister Evarist Bartolo emphasised that while childcare centres are important to working parents, they should not be viewed as centres where parents can ‘park’ their children during the most developmentally-sensitive time of their young lives.
Minister Bartolo called on the childcare service providers to ensure that their service provides above all an educational and developmental function, and urged them to work to provide the best possible service, in the interest of the success of the initiative and the well-being of the children.
– Saturday, 29th March, 2014