Mayor under fire over daycare promise

Opposition city council member argues that too many parents are not getting places for their children in their first choice daycare

Mayor Frank Jensen’s (Socialdemokraterne) promise to provide daycare to all children within four kilometres of their home by the next council elections in 2014 may not be achieved, warns an opposition council member.

The allegation was made in Politiken newspaper by City Council member Cecilia Lonning-Skovgaard (Venstre), who said there were 956 children in Copenhagen over the age of 11 months who do not have a place in a daycare.

“We only have one year of maternity leave, so that means that these 956 children have to be looked after by grandparents, private individuals or mothers who extend their leave without pay,” Lonning-Skovgaard told Politiken. 

Lonning-Skovgaard said she was also concerned by the 4,200 children who have a place in a daycare that was not their parent’s first choice.

“The vast majority [of those parents] must be in desperate need [of a place] so Copenhagen City Council is profiting from the parents' willingness to find creative solutions,” she said.

But Henriette Bjørn Nielsen, a manager at City Council’s department for children and young people, argues that there isn’t such a big problem with daycare capacity. She said that the 956 children are not in daycare because their parents are waiting for available places in their first daycare of choice, not because there isn’t enough capacity.

She added that the city has created 3,700 new daycare places for children since 2010 and that an additional 2,600 places will be created over the next two years. Parents who are desperate for a daycare facility for their children can demand that the council find them a place within four kilometres of their home within two months.

But despite the fact the council has so far kept this promise, the Copenhagen parents association, KFN, thinks there are still problems to be tackled.

“The problem is mostly that parents want their children all looked after at the same place and don’t want to have to send them too far away,” spokesperson Nina Reffstrup said. “The four kilometre limit is good but it can still be a long way in Copenhagen so we need to keep on finding new places where we can build. But right now it would be unreasonable to criticise the council too much.”